A text to my Midwife, Katie Quinn:
Hey having contractions since 330. I got up on birth ball and did some squats and lunges through them. Marlon timed them they were about five minutes apart and 40 seconds long. Laid back down after about an hour of that and have been resting in between. The past 6-8 contractions have been more intense but not close together. Still laying down resting and breathing through them. No bloody show or other signs
Immediate Text back from Katie:
Ok! Thank you for the update! Praying this is baby time for you! Let me know as things change
I went to the bathroom and saw bloody show, which is a common symptom during late pregnancy when a small amount of blood and mucus is released from the vagina. A bloody show occurs because the cervix starts to soften and thin (efface) and widen (dilate) in preparation for labor. I have never been more excited to see blood when I wiped! I had been having prodromal labor, which is a type of “practice” labor contraction that occurs during pregnancy. These contractions are often mistaken for actual labor and can occur in the weeks leading up to your baby's due date. The thing about prodromal labor is that is can feel very real. I had been having "Braxton Hicks" practice contractions for several months, and a few bouts of prodromal labor in the weeks leading up to my birth, so to see actual blood, after having contractions for an hour was…exciting?! In my excitement, I immediately sent Katie a text and a photo of the bloody toilet paper, because midwives tend to be into those types of photos! I was proud, like “look, here is proof! I really might be in labor this time!”
Katie texted back and asked how I was doing. My contractions were about 10 minutes apart. I needed to breathe through them as they were crampy and uncomfortable but manageable, so I shared these insights with her. She reminded me that I WAS in fact going to have a baby. I was 40 weeks plus five days pregnant. This was my third pregnancy. I had two prior labor inductions at 39 weeks with both of my other boys. This was the longest I had been pregnant. I had it in my head that this baby was going to come early and quickly. I just had a feeling and also, he was very low and in my pelvis for the bulk of my third trimester. We all agreed that he was ready. Except he didn’t agree. He did not decide to come early. More on that later.
Meanwhile, I was updating my mom, as she was coming to stay with our boys during labor, my doula, April, and my sister who would also come for the labor. We had planned to have the labor photographed but as we were struggling a bit to prepare for the home birth, mentally and physically, plus had a few other things going on with our older children, we decided it was best to not add an extra layer of pressure during the moment. I was starting to get a bit nervous about doing the whole unmedicated birth thing, at home, and my husband was a bit nervous as well. In a last minute decision, we did decide to allow/ask my friend Kelsie, to photograph, as she is a new birth photographer and doula (she actually works as a doula for BWS Doula Agency!) so I was updating her as well. I didn’t want to have everyone on high alert that I was in labor so we didn't share much with anyone else. I was already getting irritated that I was on constant labor watch. Even our surrounding neighbors had me on a labor time clock. A day after my due date our sweet older neighbor from across the street said “okay, you’re a day past due now!” and my mouth dropped I was so shocked. Yes, I was very aware every minute that I was still pregnant. But this might really be time because, bloody show!
I went into that late morning resting, laboring a little on the ball, and going about
regular business of making the boys breakfast which happened to be bacon and eggs. I had sent my husband to work that morning to get things prepped, and told him to come back quickly in case things picked up. The contractions did not get any more intense or closer together. If anything, they began to stall out a bit that afternoon. We took it pretty easy at home, continuing to prepare the house for the home birth. This was new to us- and with a bunch of pre-teen and teen boys running around our home, 5 to be exact, it was difficult to keep our home tidy enough for me to feel comfortable giving birth there (think lots of pee, because, boys.) However, my nesting was in overdrive, and my husband got on board quickly, so we were able to prepare, and clean and meal prep and do all the things for the house to be ready to go. We decided to move the bedroom around that day, making space for the birth tub. Our affirmations and string lights had been hung for a few days. I think I hung those early as a way to kind of usher this baby into the world (spoiler: he didn’t listen!)
Text from Katie after telling her things were about the same:
Ok! Good to hear. Baby might wait until tonight. They like the nighttime it seems. Are you eating, drinking and resting well?
My text back to her:
Yea doing cycle of three. Took a walk, ate breakfast, laid down, got room together, going to eat lunch then lay down again
She checked in again with me at about 7:15 pm asking how I was doing. I told her they were about 12 minutes apart. I could not talk through them though. The intensity of my contractions was still all about the same. I was looking for some advice from her. She shared this all felt really normal, not concerning, and her thought was that he was waiting until night to come. She made sure I was still feeling him move well, and she encouraged me to have a nice bath, eat a good dinner and get to bed really early tonight, in preparation that things could kick in when the sun went down. I listened to her! We asked my mom to drive to our house to spend the night with us so that she was available to help with the boys if things picked up. I did continue to see more blood throughout the day, which was a good sign for me to give me confidence that these contractions were doing SOMETHING. We ordered dinner out, and my mom picked it up. I ate prime rib, a baked potato and some green beans for dinner. I was plenty hydrated with my favorite electrolytes (I'm addicted to Liquid IV, specifically the lemon lime flavor!) and plain water. My mom, husband, youngest son and I took a very short walk before bed. Per Katie's recommendation, I didn’t try to push labor along. I see many people try to get things going or intensify labor. I knew, from being a doula, that labor is a marathon and I didn’t want to exhaust myself. I was nervous to give birth at home. I knew it was right for me, but I had not given birth without an epidural before.
I knew it would take me to my limits and require me to dig deeper than I knew was within me, so I knew I needed all the mental and physical strength possible.
I took a nice long shower, and got to bed around 10:30 pm. I wanted to get in bed sooner, but my Type A/Nester instinct wouldn’t let me lay down before re-organizing the spice cabinet. I know what a hot mess I am, but this organizer came that day and I had to put it to use.
Text to Katie:
They’ve gotten stronger and lasting longer about 1 min 15 sec still 15 min apart.
Text back from her:
Beautiful! With 15 minutes between I would still sleep between
Texts to Katie:
Ok trying to in between still. Last couple were 10/13 mins apart.
8 mins apart
6 mins apart
She then asked to see a screenshot of my contraction timer. My husband was timing them for me. They never really got closer than about 6 minutes apart during that early morning time right after midnight, but they felt stronger than what I thought they should feel at 6 minutes apart. As a doula and Evidence Based Birth® Instructor, I know what labor patterns look like. I know what 6-8 minutes apart can look, sound and feel like. I was starting to get confused at this point because although my contractions were 6-8 minutes apart, in my mind, and body, they felt like they were 3-4 minutes apart.
Confusion. That is the word I would use for most of my labor. It turns out I wasn’t the only one. I was communicating frequently with Katie, and also April. April was such a voice of affirmation. She agreed with the advice Katie was giving me and went deeper, too. When I was informing her of my early labor, bloody show, then contractions stalling out earlier in the day, she said “This is very normal… you have other responsibilities to attend to during daylight hours.” Science backs up this claim! The midwives and doulas always know, but the researcher in me wanted some evidence, too! Thinking of myself as a mammal, an animal, this made a lot of sense to me and reassured me all was well. My body is doing what it needs to do. The most primal animalistic parts of me are responding just how they should. My body and baby decided to wait until darkness, which is really common. It’s safer to give birth in the dark at night. It increases chances of survival, it allowed me to care for my other children during the day and complete other household duties and tasks, which was some wisdom shared by April.
There was something comforting about the fact that my body and baby were connected to this birth practice that has been a part of our world and creation since the beginning of time, and no amount of planning or preparation was going to override my animal instincts.
That felt good. My labor team (Katie and April) continued to affirm I was doing the right things, my baby was good and healthy, and my body knew just what to do. And she did!
I text April that I may need her soon, given she had a little drive to get to me. At this point, my husband was laying next to me in bed, resting his eyes in between my contractions, timing them with his phone app when contractions came about. Every time a contraction came, I needed to get on hands and knees to cope and breathe through them. My husband would sometimes apply some counter pressure, but what felt best was him rubbing my lower back in-between contractions.
April arrived. She took over applying some counter pressure and did hip squeezes. We all rested in between contractions. Katie agreed it was time for her to head my way. I also texted our birth photographer/friend and my sister that it was okay to come.
Katie arrived and asked if I’d like a cervical exam. At this point, including the past couple hours, my contractions were not extremely close together but they felt very strong. This was so incredibly confusing for me, and I later found out it was also confusing for Katie and April. They found it difficult to assess “where I was” meaning I was looking and sounding like labor may be further along than the data was telling us. For example, when I decided to get a cervical check, I was 80% effaced and 4-5 centimeters dilated. We all collectively thought I had a ways to go.
Things started to pick up more, meaning more intense and contractions were coming a little closer together. April was still providing affirmations and support, and was physically helping me cope through contractions. I had asked for some melon to eat. Not even five minutes after finishing a small bowl of the fruit, I began throwing it all up. It was disgusting and I was filling every container near me with puke. At this point, my contractions became more intense and I had asked for the birth tub to be filled.
April recommended I get in the shower as they were setting up the tub. I made it into into the bathroom, and asked for the peanut ball to sit on in the shower. I felt I was starting to lose control at this point, and the water came just in time. I sat facing the back of my shower, letting the water run down my back. I found an internal space of comfort. April was nearby in the bathroom for a bit, and then my husband swapped in. I was still vocal and moaning during contractions, but I found some rest in between which was becoming harder and harder for me to do when I was in the bed prior to that. So a funny little thing was going on during this time. My husband had turned the water heater up, ensuring that we would have enough hot water for the tub. Perfect. However, that meant it was steaming hot for my shower, which to me, was fine because I was finding some relief finally! Another funny thing was happening, though. In order to fill up the birth tub with water, my team needed to hook up the hose to the shower head that I was finding relief from! Filling the tub was in a holding pattern because I was using the shower.
The water was so incredibly hot, and I was still nauseous, and it all hit me at once. I ripped open the shower door and tumbled out reaching for the toilet. I’ll never forget the look on my husbands face. He looked terrified. I felt like an animal. I wasn’t ashamed. I just felt outside of my body. Primal. I had never dug deep into myself like that before.
I wrapped myself around the toilet as I began to puke again. Then dry heaving because nothing was left. My naked wet body folded into the bathroom rug, leaving pieces of lint on my leg, a nice way to accessorize the puke in my hair.
This didn’t feel real. I felt like I was hovering over myself and I felt really sorry for her. And I was also proud of her. This was so hard and she was doing it.
Katie came and was trying to listen to the baby with the doppler. She was on the floor with me, moving and working with my body, not to disrupt me. I couldn’t tell if I needed to puke or poop so I tried to get up on the toilet but then started having a wave of contractions back to back, longer and stronger, and only hands and knees felt good enough to cope through them. I didn’t have to poop. I had started to feel pressure, but I didn't know that. I tried to get up to walk back to the bedroom a few times, and kept falling to the ground. In an act of complete vulnerability and desperation, I crawled my way out into the dark hallway and back into the room.
I was in the bed, having contractions. This was the first time I noticed my sister had arrived. There were a few student midwives. I briefly noticed them. Other than that, I felt like I was the only person in the room. I had my eyes closed almost the whole time. Trying hard to go internal, to cope, to get through this. I had a few contractions on the bed. April provided physical comfort, my sister was right there and my husband too. I now know everyone was in the room at this point. I was struggling hard to cope and I hit the floor again; hands and knees. I began touching myself instinctively, and telling my birth team “ there's so much pressure.” I still thought I just had to poop. I started to lose control. I started saying “ I can’t do this” over and over and over again. April reminded me after I also said “I won’t do this” which is so funny now- like I had a choice. I started puking again, crying, screaming, and pooping! I was trying hard to tell someone grab the chux pads and to wipe me, but the words would barely come out. My water broke. I thought I was peeing because I couldn't control it but again, it still never clicked until after the fact that that was my actual water breaking! I still thought I had hours of labor left. I was an utter mess. But I was doing exactly what needed to be done to get my baby here, and that wasn’t going to be a neat and tidy show. As I was puking and screaming I can't do it, I remember the support from April, Katie , my sister and my husband that I WAS doing it and I was doing a great job.
I remember the feeling of my husband's hand on my back, with his other hand trying to catch my puke. Through sickness and in health was fully realized in that moment.
April and Katie's voices were calming and comforting. I felt out of control but they sounded calm, confident and at ease. I was writhing and flopping at one point; the contractions were really hard and I couldn’t find my rest in between. At one point I got angry and decided to grit through them. April described my face as snarling during that time. I was digging deep within myself. I decided to fall back flat on the wood floor in an act of desperation and Katie recommend that I get in the tub instead. The water was boiling because of the water heater being turned a bit too hot. There wasn’t much water in the tub since they couldn’t fill it because of me being in the shower. Somehow, though, I managed to flop myself over the edge of the birth tub into the steamy water. I didn’t care. It felt good.
I was on my hands and knees, and the pressure was incredibly intense in my vagina. Something I’d never felt so strongly. It was an other-worldly feeling. I leaned against the side of the birth pool, grabbing on the student midwife and my sister's hands, and I continued screaming “there’s so much pressure.”
April told me to see if I could feel my babies head. It had not occurred to me at all that this pressure could be my babies head descending. The labor pattern didn’t really allow for that. I seriously thought I was going to be in labor for hours and hours more, because my contractions weren’t close enough together, I was only 4-5 centimeters less than 2 hours prior. There is no way he was actually coming now. Wrong. He was actually coming!
I felt for him and sure enough I could feel his head. I felt his head myself! Nobody told me “I can feel your baby's head” like I had heard many providers in the hospital say before. I told the room “ I can feel my baby's head.” Not even seconds later I pushed 2 long pushes. I could feel this immense pressure, the heaviest weight bearing down through my body.
I knew he was out so I said “can someone grab him” and Katie said “YOU grab him” so I reached down and his head and abdomen were out.
I wrapped my hands around his tiny body and pulled him the rest of the way out up to my chest. I flopped back off my knees and rested against the birth tub. My husband was jumping up and down and everyone was in shock! He was here!
His tiny little self was out and here. I felt immediate relief and shock. He came so quickly! Everyone was in awe. He was adorable and so tiny! My husband wrapped his arms around me and was kissing and hugging us. The entire room excitedly shared that it was the best dad reaction they’ve ever seen!
Right then, my mom and two older sons walked in to meet their new baby brother. My oldest son had been nervous for the birth, not wanting to see me in pain. I was so relieved when he came in and looked at his little brother with an expression of relief on his face as he said “I don’t know what I was so worried about!” It melted my heart. We had been going back and forth about his name, and I decided he had to look like a Kobe. Someone asked shortly after he emerged if he was a Kobe and I agreed, yes, he's a Kobe.
Shortly after that, I felt the separation gush of blood and with minimal effort, I pushed my placenta out.
It was small, to match my small baby, but everything seemed fine and well. Kobe was perfect. He had his big brown eyes open the whole time, looking and searching for familiar voices he’d heard for the past nine months; his brothers, his dad, and me. I held him close to me, wrapped in a towel, as we were helped out of the birth tub and into my bed. The team went to work, cleaning, organizing, washing.
As I entered my bed, I noticed the sun had just risen, as my son had just emerged. It felt full circle and right.
I tucked him into my gown, skin to skin, and talked about the madness of Kobe’s birth, still a bit shocked at how it all played out.
At this point, Katie came to check me and noted that I had really minimal tearing and no stitches needed. The student midwives cheered! I still need to figure out if they were super happy to not have to stay and stitch me or if they were just happy for me and my healing. Either way, it was funny and cute! I was helped up and to the bathroom to use it and shower. I wanted to wash my hair. I had really minimal bleeding which was such a blessing. I got cozy in a new nightgown and my robe. After Katie checked me, she then asked if she could perform Kobe’s newborn exam. He pooped all over me while we were cuddling and waiting for her to come do the exam, so we cleaned him up a bit. She measured him, weighed him, checked his reflexes, and got his footprints done. She also cuddled him in between everything. He is very cuddly so I completely understand!
He weighed five pounds and ten ounces and was nineteen inches long. Everything checked out perfectly. I ate a snack and continued drinking lots of fluids while my husband put in a coffee order for everyone. My mom went to grab the Starbucks which gave my husband a moment to finally just sit with Kobe and me. I passed Kobe over to my husband to hold, then our boys, and my sister and mom.
April, our doula, has an incredible skill set, training and expertise in maternal/baby care. She is a Certified Professional Midwife, A Monitrice more than a doula, and a doula trainer and creator of Birth With Spirit certification program.
She is also an IBCLC lactation consultant. Because of this expertise, she assessed Kobe's mouth for tongue ties, which he did have, and did a little bit of body work with him. She's incredible at supporting breastfeeding and was such an asset to us postpartum as well.
Our team began to pack up their things and head out; our photographer, the students, Katie, my sister, and April. My mom hung around with us, helping with our older boys who had the time of their lives playing games on the Playstation and phones and eating all the things that Grandma only gets (pretty sure they had cake pops for breakfast that day.) They also baked Kobe a birthday cake later that day. The birth and the retelling of this birth story felt transformative. Powerful. I had given birth two times before, both in hospitals, induced, with epidurals and vaginally. My boys and I came out healthy. This birth was so different. I don’t think I could’ve done what I needed to do to get him here if I was in a hospital setting. Not without medication at least.
I had to find that primal, animalistic space inside of me- the gritty spot. The snarling presence. I would’ve felt judged and worried about everyone around me if I wasn’t in the comfort of my home. For me, for us, this was right.
Kobe Ellis, we love you and your birth story. You have no clue how special you are to our family.
Dr. Jodi Cunningham
BWS Doula Agency Co-Owner
Certified Doula & Evidence Based Birth® Instructor
Midwife: Katie Quinn
Doula: April Kline
Photographer: Kelsie Beitel
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