Kirsten Baucom Recounts Eva’s Birth Story
2:30 am August 3, 2007- I wake up having contractions. They seem different from any I have had before. My lower back aches and my abdomen tightens stronger, more frequently than before. Mary Ellen stripped my membranes yesterday. This could be it! But still, I’m not too sure. I’ve heard about women thinking they were in labor only to find out they weren’t.
So I think I’ll wait it out a while before I get too excited. I can’t fall back asleep. I ‘m used to waking up at 2:30 in the morning over the last few weeks of pregnancy, so I do what I always do- go out in the living room to read and have a midnight snack.
I am able to read a chaper or so of the book I’m reading, and get down a package of peanut butter crackers. After a while, I notice I’m having a hard time concentrating. I feel very sleepy and the contractions are seeming to get more intense. But still, I’m not convinced that I’m really in labor. The contractions so far have been short ones, about 30 seconds long and averaging around 5 minutes apart but irregular, . This is not how I expected labor to be. I had learned early labor contractions should be 20-30 minutes apart lasting for about 1 minute. So I am not sure this isn’t just “false” labor.
Feeling very sleepy, I want to go back to bed. If this is real labor I will need the rest. But laying down seriously intensifies the contractions. I can’t get comfortable. So I take my pillow out to the couch and try to fall asleep sitting up. It’s more comfortable, but equally unsuccessful. I should probably try to eat more in case labor picks up and I can’t later. But I can’t imagine what I feel like eating in the middle of the night. . . maybe some Cream of Wheat? I make a big bowl with brown sugar and raisins. But I can only stomach a little bit of it.
Unable to sleep, read, or eat anymore, I start to wonder if this could really be it! It is now four o’clock in the morning. I decide that it would be best to get as much rest as I can, so I relax on the couch with my eyes closed, listening to the second hand . . . counting, timing the contractions. 30 seconds long, regularly now, 4-5 minutes apart, for one hour.
5:00 am – I call Laura, our doula. I tell her everything that has happened. She is as uncertain as I am. She suggests that I take a warm bath and that if it isn’t really labor, the warm water might settle things down. I ‘ll try. I tell her, and call her back. In the meantime, I’ll try to reach Mary Ellen to ask her opinion. I call the hospital birth center, and the nurse tells me that they don’t usually wake up the midwives until they know labor is certain. I can come in if I want, she tells me, and they can check
me for dilation. I tell her I think I’ll wait a little while longer.
Before I get in the tub, I decide I had better put a few Vitamin Waters in the frige so I can work on staying hydrated in case I really am in labor. I go into our bedroom where they were packed to go to the hospital. Getting them out of the cooler, I accidentally wake up Jay who is still in bed.
“What’s up?” he asks. “I’ve been having contractions,” I tell him. He gets up and helps me draw a warm bath, with Lavendar & Geranium essential oils, while I fill him in on all that has happened so far. The water is warm and relaxing, but the contractions are not changing. I soak in the tub for about a half hour, and I get out feeling really sleepy. I go back to bed and try several positions but find it hard to stay comfortable.
7:00 am- I call Laura back to tell her the bath had not slowed anything down. If anything it seems to be getting more intense. She still seems uncertain, however, since the contractions are still short and somewhat irregular. She suggests calling the midwife back since it is now around the time she would surely be up and in the office soon.
7:30 am- Mary Ellen returns our call. Jay comes in with the phone but I can no longer talk. Just then I throw up. “Yes!” Mary Ellen says that’s a good sign this is most definitely labor! I am getting more and more into Laborland now and having a hard time keeping track of time or anything that is going on except the contractions. Jay calls Laura back. “It’s on!” he says. We ask her to start heading over to our house as soon as she can.
Still in our bed, trying to find a comfortable position, I move to my hands and knees. Cathy, just woken up by Jay, peeks in with a big smile. “It’s happening!” I tell her. I am unable to talk much, drifting in and out of a daze, riding the waves of the contractions. I need to tell my mom! I find my cell phone and call her. “Helloo??” She answers with an inquisitive tone, as if she were suspecting such an early morning phone call could only mean one thing. “I’m in labor” I tell her. She’s going to drive up. “But don’t rush,” I tell her. “It will still be a while,” or so I think.
9:00 am- I’m back on the couch explaining to Cathy the length and frequency of the contractions. I’m starving. Jay has made me some toast. I’m trying to eat it but I can’t. Cathy gets a watch for Jay so he can time the contractions. Pretty quickly we realize that they are now regularly a minute long and 3-4 minutes apart. “I think it’s time to go to the hospital,” Cathy says. Just then I throw up, again. I suddenly realize I am farther along than I thought. We still have to pack the car! We still have to drive 35 minutes to the hospital! I’m not even dressed!
Jay starts loading the car while Cathy is sitting with me. I get up to start getting ready. “I’m so sorry, I peed on your couch!” I couldn’t control it when I threw up. The vomiting was helping me dilate. We call Laura and tell her to change directions and meet us at the hospital. Jay is trying hard to stay calm. We are both on a sort of auto-pilot now. I go to get dressed. I can’t figure out what to put on. I can’t imagine putting clothes on other than the bath robe I just peed on. I can’t find a T-shirt big enough. “Can I wear one of yours?” I ask Jay. He can’t decide which one to give me. “Just anything. We’ve got to get out of here!”
A few minutes later we are in the car and Cathy & Dan are wishing us well and good luck. Cathy has promised to call a list of people for me. “Thunder knows you’re in labor,” she tells me as we are pulling away. “We’ll see you at the hospital!” It’s then I realize what an interesting drive we have ahead of us. First is the bumpy gravel road we live on and then another 30 minutes to the hospital. Jay does a great job all the way as I tell him just a little faster, no that’s too fast, slow down a little. On the way, Laura calls to say she made it to the hospital and they know I am coming. We ask her to start blowing up the tub which is already there, thank goodness!
The last stop light for a left turn to the hospital is red. Nobody is coming. “Just go,” I say. We’re almost there.
10:30 am- We pull up to the emergency entrance to Caldwell Memorial Hospital in Lenoir. Jay gets out to help me out of the car. Someone has just pulled up behind us. Jay rolls a wheelchair and helps me inside to the registration desk. The girl behind us comes in in a wheelchair too. She is also in labor. By now I have figured out that deep, moaning really helps me through the contractions. I try not to be self consious about moaning in front of all the people in the waiting room. We had pre-registered weeks ago, but they can’t find me in the computer. We have to go through it all again, name, address, date of birth, insurance. . . “Get me out of here!” I say. “We’ve done this already!”
Soon, an attendant comes and wheels me up to the Birth Center. Laura has the tub almost totally inflated. I get in bed and they strap on a fetal monitor. Jay finishes blowing up the tub and starts to fill it with water. All of my stuff has made it in, pillows, music, my birth altar and mandala, rose oil and simmer pot. I ask Jay to set up the altar and the mandala in a
window next to the tub.
The nurses are asking me questions in between contractions- everything from have I eaten today to do I need anything for the baby. I do my best to answer them as I try to relax, breathe, and open, surrendering to each contraction. There is a lot of activity around me that I am hardly aware of. Another nurse comes and checks my dilation. “5-6 cm” she says. “We’ll tell Mary Ellen.” She’s on her way over. She has two patients in labor, the other girl and me. I can get off the monitor now, the baby and I look good.
11:00 am- The tub is almost full. “Can I go ahead and get in?” I ask. “I am so ready.” I get in while they finish filling it and immediately am prepared to relax into Laborland, but not until I throw up for the third time. There is nothing left in my stomach now except for what little fluid I have managed to take in. A nurse is still talking to me. She wants me to sign some forms, one that says I give permission for Mary Ellen to deliver my baby. I look at her like she is crazy, because I think she is, and say, “I don’t even know what you are saying to me. Can you ask him or let me sign them later?” Eventually she settles for a verbal agreement and goes away.
Now I can fully surrender. Time seems to stop or be suspended. I am drifty and aware only of my labor. I moan deeply with each contraction, trying to remember to open. . . visualize myself openning. . . surrender. ..relax. . .breathe. . .open. I feel a lot of pressure on my lower back. It’s not quite pain, but increasingly uncomfortable pressure. Breathe. . .try to relax. . . I moan, sometimes a whimper, with each contraction. The moaning becomes my focus to stay relaxed. Time passes outside of my awareness. I am in a suspended place where there is just space and all that exists is me, the baby, and the energy moving her down and out.
I have asked Jay and Laura, who were trying to know how to help, to give me space after I realized that is all I need right now. When people whisper near by, they may as well be shouting at the stock market. I need no extraneous noise. I like my peaceful environment with soothing piano music or gentle running water with peaceful singing bowls. Mary Ellen comes in and out to check on me. Ann is there too. She came because the other girl and I are laboring at the same time. She stays with me for what seems most of my labor. Detached, watching me, telling me I’m doing great.
The contractions are starting to feel closer together, more intense, and I can feel the baby moving down. I am fighting the fear of transition, the fear of what others have described as difficult, painful and scarey. I don’t want to do it. I start asking if I am almost done. Nobody can tell me. I tell Laura that I’m getting scared. She reassures me that it won’t get more painful, just more intense. But I’m feeling tired and uncertain about what’s ahead.
1:30 pm- Ann notices things are slowing down. “I am concerned about you nutritionally,” she says. “I think it would be good if we can get some calories into you and if you can try some different positions, maybe get out of the tub for a little while.” She sends someone to the cafeteria to get some honey and I get out of the tub and decide to try the birthing ball. I sit on it for a while, leaning against the bed. It isn’t really working for me, so I climb into the bed and rest. The honey arrives and they feed it to me by the spoonfuls along with ice chips in Vitamin Water. They hook me back up to the monitor. Very quickly my heart rate and the baby’s heart rate pick back up and labor kicks in again.
I’m so tired I drift to sleep between contractions. Soon after some rest and some nurishment, I am feeling energized again. But the contractions are strong and the pressure on my lower back almost unbearable. Laura asks if I want her to put counter pressure on my back during the contractions. We try it, but I don’t want her to do it. I want to do it myself because I can do just the right amount, in the right spot, at the right time without having to explain it. The baby is close, but it’s not happening yet. I look over at Laura. “I don’t know if I mean this, but if this is going to be much longer I might want some drugs.” Somewhere inside myself, I know I don’t need drugs, just want it to be over.
Since I got in the bed I have been hot and cold, hot and cold-blankets on, blankets off. The contractions have gotten so intense. Ann has been looking me in my eyes and helping me breathe through them. “One contraction at a time” she keeps telling me. “You only have to think about this one contraction.” Then she tells me she needs to go. “Help me through one more,” I ask her. Deep breath in and we exhale together. She tells me I am doing great and then she’s gone.
2:30 pm- Mary Ellen comes back in. She’s smiling at me. “How are we doing?” She watches me for a while and asks “when’s the last time you’ve been to the bathroom?” Not since I’ve been here. I hadn’t even thought about it! She suggests I go try. A bit reluctant to move, I know it’s a good idea. Everybody helps me get up. Once on the toilet, it takes me a minute to be able to go. I finally do, and then I realize I’m ready to push. Very ready. “Something’s coming out!” I yell. They help me back to the bed. I had wanted to deliver in the water, but the squatting position on the toilet seemed so right I want to try it in the bed.
Mary Ellen is so calm and cool. “It’s your water bag,” she says. “Do you want me to break it? It will speed things up.” “OK” I say. I see the nurses roll a tray of tools and equipment behind Mary Ellen. “That’s a lot of stuff!” I say. “Only a third of it do I actually use,” she tells me. The water bag is very thick, but it breaks and a huge flood of warm water pours from between my legs. It surprizes me how much water there is. It relieves a lot of the pressure on my abdomen. It also makes the contractions seriously intense. Mary Ellen has me put my legs up in a squatting position and I start bearing down, grunting with the effort. It puts immense pressure on myback. “I need you to put counter pressure while I push now,” I tell Laura.
She immediately comes in behind me and presses on my lower back as I push. It helps so much. “More!” I scream as the pushing gets really intense.
Nurses are pushing against my feet holding my legs up while I push into them. Jay has been fanning me for what must be hours now. Nurse Mary asks him if he would like to take a break and hold my foot instead. He puts my foot against the palm of his hand. I push against it as I contract. “Don’t push with your feet,” Mary Ellen says. “They’ll push against your legs, you push into the pain.” I try again and scream with the burn. “That’s it!” Mary Ellen says. “Do it again!” I push again. “I can touch the head!”
The burning pain is intense. I decide to rest between pushes. It lengthens the process but feels much more comfortable and natural to me.
About an hour and a half and 10 or so pushes later, Mary Ellen says, “the head is right there. I can see it. Give me two more big pushes.” A grunt turns to a scream as I push, scream, PUSH! “One more!” Mary Ellen coaches. I can’t, I think. Yes I can. This is it, this is for my baby! I scream hard as the burnning rips through my bottom and Eva slides out! Her hand is in a fist against her face causing the excrutiating back labor.
4:20 pm- I am in shock. I can’t believe I did it! Mary Ellen holds up my baby daughter. She’s huge! So much bigger than I expected to see. They put her up on my chest and the rest of the world disappears. I kiss her head and stroke her. I barely notice as the nurses suction her nose and mouth. I want her to look in my eyes. I will never forget her eyes passing over my face as she looks around at the world for the very first time. She seems cautious but not scared. We snuggle and I tell her she is safe and everything will be OK. I don’t even notice Jay cut the cord. There is only me and my baby.
“Welcome to the world, Eva. I hope you like it here!”