Thank you to guest author, Kelsie Zellar for this exciting birth story!
It was probably about half-way through my pregnancy that I started reading more, learning more, and asking questions. I have a friend that (at the time) had had both a hospital birth and an unmedicated waterbirth, and was in the midst of planning either a home or center birth for her third child. I frequently found myself going to her and asking what she knew or recommended or had experienced. She played a major role in some of my decision making – not because she wanted me to follow her ways, but because she wanted me to be informed.
Fast forward to our birth education classes. We decided to try birthED’s Breastfeeding and Newborn Care class (all because I randomly saw a sign for it posted at Baby Grand). We loved the teaching style and decided to go all in – we signed up for the Lamaze Class soon after. These classes changed things for us big time. We realized where our values were and how they compared to our provider’s. It wasn’t too far into our series of classes that I was begging Liz for help after class about which direction we should go next. At 30+ weeks of pregnancy, I switched my care from an OB to Willow Midwives.
As someone who is both hyper-aware of her feelings AND someone who struggles with change, this was one of the most difficult yet relieving decisions we had made.
My guess date for my baby was October 3. I was FULLY expecting to go past that date. When people asked me when I was due, my answer was often “early October.” I didn’t want my heart and mind set on a specific date, and I knew that first time mothers can often go well past their guess date.
So to say that I was surprised when my water broke (also NOT expecting that to happen first) at 1:45am on Sunday morning would be an understatement. I was only 37 weeks + 6 days… this wasn’t supposed to happen. I knew that baby would likely be fine – but when you have it in your mind that you’re going past your due date and not going to have a movie-worthy water-breaking moment, it comes as a bit of a shock. I woke up my husband with a nudge and said “babe.” He said, “huh?” to which I replied, “my water broke...”
I sat on our couch and called the midwife on call. I told her what had happened and she asked how I was doing... to which I promptly burst into tears and explained how surprised and nervous I was to know that this meant things were starting but that nothing was happening. I had no contractions yet and was intimidated knowing they were on their way. She told me to rest and fuel my body, and we made a plan to meet at Willow at 11am.
I must have fallen asleep… my husband, not so much. He was worried about things being in line for work that day (he works at a church) and having a little bit of the this-is-really-happening jitters. Since I was able to rest and he couldn’t, he ran into work extra early and I tried to sleep. Around 7:30 am I was starting to noticeably feel contractions – and he was on his way home.
There are many moments of my laboring that I can vividly remember and (so many) hours that I can’t quite put a finger on. I remember:
We made sure to eat breakfast – sausage and scrambled eggs.
Not being able to get comfortable – laying on the bed or the couch, walking around the kitchen and living room, being on hands and knees, using the yoga ball, etc. We tried comfort measures that we’d been taught, but I never wanted to stay in a position long enough to really try one.
We stayed in touch with Alicia Kornacker, our doula, but we hadn’t asked her to come over yet because we had no idea how long labor would take and it felt like there was a lot more intensity to come.
Before things were too intense I found a music station that I liked. It was a calming acoustic guitar station playing through our Bluetooth speaker… and that thing went ev.er.y.where. It moved around the house with me, in and out of car rides with us, at the center, etc. Wherever I went, it was playing.
Back labor sucked. Right above my right hip. Baby was sunny side up and I felt it. But we were SO thankful that baby was head down.
Car rides during labor = terrible. When we went back and forth from the birth center (a 20-25 minute drive), I could never get out of that seat fast enough.
I drank water but refused pretty much all other foods.
We met the midwife at Willow as planned. It was the first time I was ever being checked in terms of effacement or dilation. This was VERY uncomfortable for me and one of the things I remember not enjoying the most. Turns out I was about 70% effaced and dilated about 2 cm. I remember feeling happy about the effacement – I knew this had to happen first, but disappointed that it was only 2 cm.
So the midwife sent us home to keep laboring in a familiar space. It was a lot of the same as before… I couldn’t get comfortable, I didn’t want to eat, and I hoped that I would progress soon.
Jonathan had been keeping in touch with both Willow and Alicia since I was in no mood or mindset to do it myself. Around 6 pm, we went back to Willow. We were feeling like things must have been progressing well based on my contractions… but I had only progressed from 2 cm to 3 cm and 70% to 90% effaced. This was SO discouraging to hear. I had been laboring all day and felt like that was nothing compared to how far I needed to get. At this point, Alicia was now at the birth center with us.
The ladies at Willow had also decided to admit me and start my IV for the antibiotic (GBS+). There was also a shift change - and I got the next midwife on call.
My doula, Alicia, gently suggested we try a few Spinning Babies moves to try and ease my back labor. This took a lot of effort and is probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. We did inversions and hip releases through a number of contractions. Before starting the inversions, I distinctly remember looking at Alicia taking a deep breath, and muttering, “How effective is this?” to which she replied, “it can be pretty darn effective!” (Spoiler alert: It was…!)
After all of that, I remember being on my side in the bed, clenching Jon’s shirt through each contraction, and thinking, “I don’t know how much longer I can do this.”
Candace did another check to see where things were at. She said basically the same thing as Ashley had before… 90% and about 3 cm dilated. Now I really wasn’t sure if I could keep doing this. I was supposed to get to 100% and 10 cm… how on earth could I do that if I felt like I could barely do it now??
At this point we had a few options… basically we could wait around for a little longer and then leave or leave sooner and hopefully end up resting sooner in our home environment. It was already past 10 pm so we opted to head home then.
I was offered a sleep aid, Vistaril, which was like a strong Benadryl in hopes of helping me rest. I took half of the dose there before leaving and half once we got home.
So… we left the birth center and headed home! Another uncomfortable ride… but a little different. I was feeling like a had to go to the bathroom (red flag!) and couldn’t. I never even thought to tell Candace, Grace, or Alicia this. On the way home I was telling Jonathan how miserable I felt because I felt like I had to go to the bathroom and couldn’t at all. Since we were going home, I figured I could just try until something happened and then I would be more comfortable.
Around 11 pm...
My husband started getting concerned with the way I was complaining combined with the way I couldn't get comfortable. Sitting, laying, standing, nothing helped. I felt like a restless animal.
Jonathan had me try to lay down on the couch, but I was SO uncomfortable feeling like I had to go to the bathroom that I could barely sit down (still did not occur to us that this could be my body trying to push). I laid down and about 30 seconds later popped right back up and said, “this isn’t going to work.”
At this point Jonathan is getting pretty uneasy.
He called the midwife and tried to explain how I was feeling.
She said that it sounded like normal feelings people have and that it was probably just the baby progressing/moving downward (after all, I had JUST left the center less than an hour before and I had only been at 3 cm – it wasn’t likely time for the baby to come out yet).
Jon hung up.
I said, “I feel like I’m hurting myself!” – We called back within 5 minutes.
After a few more descriptions of my discomfort Candace said, "Okay, well just reach down and tell me what you feel." To which I responded, "Uhh, that's baby's head!"
And thus begins the rush to the birth center. Mind you, it’s about 20 minutes away.
My husband to the midwife: "Stay on the phone, we're coming! We're on our way!"
My internal (and quickly fleeting) thoughts: "We're doing this?! Why aren't we calling 911?"
The midwife is on speaker-phone, my husband is driving, and I'm in the passenger seat.
Real talk: I'm wearing a tank top, disposable underwear, and a large blanket. When we left the house in a hurry, my husband said, "No time for shoes, no time for pants!"
The midwife is trying to get me to take short little breaths in an effort NOT to push.
I'm trying. It's really not working. My husband is trying to help model the breathing - I'm terrified he is going to pass out. (I also refuse to look at the speedometer!)
Every time my breathing pauses, my husband, says, "No, no, no, Kelsie." We both know that my body is taking over at this point and I can't help or prevent what is happening.
At some point, I mutter, "The head is coming out." This cues the midwife to start coaching me through instead of against it.
Baby’s head comes out, (for some reason I remember to check for the cord before anyone could even ask,) the shoulders are out, the legs. The baby is on my chest and crying. My husband is teary. I'm remarkably calm. And we're still driving down the road! Our baby was born about 5 minutes from our destination,… so naturally, we kept going.
We still don’t even know if it’s a boy or a girl – it was too dark to see!
The midwives met us at the door, wheel chair waiting. Lucky for us, the placenta was delivered at the birth center, and our car was spared from any evidence of a birth. They asked Jon if he wanted to cut the cord - far too full of adrenaline, he said, "I'd love to, but I can't" so I said, "I'll do it." And I did.
Turns out… It’s a boy! While we sat in the birth center bed both full of adrenaline and extremely tired, we decided to commemorate the experience by changing our son's middle name. Instead of Jordan Bennett, he was now Jordan Karr. After some food, early bonding moments, and a little rest, we left the birth center as a family of 3 (about 5:30 am).
There are so many things we realize as we look back on our experience…
We never thought to stop at either of the two hospitals that we passed on our way, we never thought to call an ambulance. We were on a mission from the moment we knew the baby was on his way out! There were no complications, so we have an amazing story to tell. If things had gone poorly, I know my outlook would be much different.
It is a unique story to tell... and some don’t really understand it. But it’s our story and it’s all that I know. It is easily the most empowering, womanly, and strong, (primal even,) thingthat I’ve ever felt.