Apr 26, 2013

Liv Evelyn's Birth Story

Keane and I set our alarms for early Saturday morning so we could spend the day painting the exterior of our house. It was one of the last items on our to-do list before the baby came and we wanted to take advantage of the nice weather since snow was scheduled to move in two days later. We ate breakfast and got to work, Keane on the siding and me on the front.

I painted the pillars and window/door trim with my 39-week belly peeking out beneath my maternity tank. A few of our neighbors stopped by to chat, asking me when I was going to have that baby of mine. With my due date less than a week away, I eagerly replied, "Could be any day!"

I finished my portion of the project around 2:00pm and got in the shower. My body ached and I knew I had overdone it. I laid on the couch with some ice on my hips and tried to relax. Around 3:00, I began noticing that my frequent and usual Braxton Hicks contractions were getting stronger, lasting longer and coming so consistently, they could be timed. I mentioned it to Keane but neither of us gave it much energy. I knew from our classes and from women in my life that early labor could start and stop over the course of several days. So as not to get my hopes up, I continued to rest and tried to ignore them.

In the next few hours, it became clear that labor was starting. The Braxton Hicks quickly transitioned into real contractions and were coming every 6 minutes and lasting 45-60 seconds. Keane went to the store to get us some dinner, knowing that if this was the real deal, we would need a nutritious meal to keep us going. After we ate, we gathered up the last few things we would bring to the birth center. By 9:00pm, I had reached 3-1-1 (contractions every 3 minutes, lasting for 1 minute, sustained for 1 hour). Keane called Tiffany, the on-call midwife, who told us to continue timing them and call her back in an hour. By 10:30, we were on our way in.

Keane informed our family that we were in labor while I breathed through each contraction from the back seat of the truck. When we arrived at Mountain Midwifery Center, Tiffany greeted us and helped us settle into our birthing room. She checked how far along I was. 3 centimeters and 90% effaced. I had hoped to be further since my contractions were coming fast and furious, but she assured me everything was progressing as it should.

I spent the next 5 hours walking the halls of the birth center with Keane, rocking my upper body in a sling suspended from the ceiling, swaying on my hands and knees, and circling my pelvis on a birthing ball. Keane and the midwife took turns applying counter pressure to my low back during contractions and I focused on releasing and relaxing my muscles. A few times I tried lying in bed to rest in between rushes but I found that remaining stagnant only made each contraction more painful. I threw up everything in my stomach sometime early Sunday morning.

At 4:00am, Tiffany checked me again. I had only progressed 2 more centimeters in 5 hours. I felt so defeated. She asked me to do a series lunges up and down the stairs to get things moving along quicker. This sounded like a terrible idea to me but I agreed if it was going to help me dilate faster. Keane stabilized me as I made wide strides down each stair, pausing and rocking for 10 seconds before taking another step. Every time a contraction would come, I deepened my squat, closed my eyes and moaned through it. It took me about 30 minutes to make it down two flights of stairs this way and by the bottom, I was ready to collapse.

"Great, now come back up the same way. Only this time skip a step in between and really get your hips low," Tiffany said from the top of the stairs. I wanted to cry and give up but Keane scooped me up under my arms and told me I could do it, that I was doing it and that I was strong. Another 30 minutes later, a few rests on my hands and knees, and I had made it to the top. Tiffany told me I deserved to get in the tub after all that hard work.

Being submerged in the warm water felt great. I sat on my feet and leaned over the edge of the tub so I could rest my head on Keane's lap. He held my hands during contractions and stroked my forehead while I gathered my strength between each one. I labored like this for almost two hours. Not a word was spoken between Keane or me during this time. Each rush would come, I would rise up on my knees, squeeze his hands, and let out a low-pitched groan until it was over. Then I'd sit back down and try to sleep for 3 minutes before the next one came.

A 6:00am shift change brought a new midwife Sarah and student midwife Erin. By this point, I was running so low on energy, I could barely open my eyes. I hadn't slept in over 24 hours and I had been been having contractions 2-3 minutes apart for the last 10 hours. I begged for Sarah to check me so I could know what our next step needed to be. I couldn't go on at this rate for too much longer. Sarah checked my cervix and I held my breath for good news. "You are about six and a half. That's great, Kelly. You are doing so beautifully," she said.

I saw Keane's head drop into his hands. "That is NOT great!" I snapped back at her. "That is terrible!" Keane asked her how much longer she thought it might take at this rate. Sarah explained that the cervix usually opens one centimeter every 1-2 hours but that I was progressing on the slow end of the spectrum. After some quick math it dawned on us that I might be in for another 8 hours of this. I told Keane I wanted to transfer to the hospital. I wanted an epidural so I could sleep. I was so tired and I was sure I didn't have anymore to give. He said he would support me in whatever decision I made, that he was proud of me and he didn't want me to be in agony. He also didn't want to rush over to the hospital because I had a moment of desperation. I had warned him early on in my pregnancy that if I started to talk like this during labor, to ignore me because I didn't really mean it.

Sarah calmly gave me a few options, one of which was getting an IV of fluids to boost my energy. She also said we could talk about breaking my water which might speed things along.

This was the first time during the whole process that I was scared. I wanted a time-out to think things through, but my contractions were coming so quickly and so intensely that I thought if waited too long to make a decision, the option for an epidural wouldn't be available to me. I questioned how I would even make it over to the hospital with as much pain as I was experiencing. I began to panic and I felt my body tense up.

Sarah told me that either way, she thought an IV would be a good next step so she started me on some fluids. Within the hour, I had renewed energy and my water broke on its own which was Divinely timed. It was so encouraging to know that my body was in fact moving toward birthing this baby naturally.

After my water broke, I started feeling the urge to push during some of my contractions. Sarah told me that was a very good sign because it meant the baby was moving down into the birth canal. With each contraction, I would hang around Keane's neck in a squat, shifting back and forth and grunting. He praised me each time I bore down and pushed, reminding me that we were getting closer to meeting our daughter. With more strength and confidence, I began walking the halls again. I sat on a ball in the hot shower, letting the water hit my aching stomach and legs. I hovered on a birth stool to help open my pelvis during contractions. Over the next few hours, each grunt got louder as I pushed harder.

Sarah decided to check me again and discovered I was 8 centimeters but that there was still a small part of the amniotic sac in tact that was preventing the baby's head from fulling dilating my cervix. On my next contraction, she broke the remainder of the sac. Within minutes, I was 10 centimeters. She told me to get in the tub– I was ready to have this baby.

No news had ever sounded sweeter! Both Keane and I let out a sigh of relief and I got back in the water.

Every contraction was an opportunity for me to give about 5 or 6 strong pushes. It was such a relief to be able to push after so many hours. It felt like I was finally channeling my energy and power for a purpose. Pushing came without much effort on my part. My body took over and I was just along for the ride. I couldn't control how many times or how hard I pushed– contractions came, I pushed with all my might, growling and grunting while feeling our daughter's head slide lower inside me. I could tell exactly where she was with every push. At one point, Sarah told me to reach down and feel her head. Knowing she was so close gave me energy to finish strong.  

I'm told I pushed for over an hour but I have no recollection of time passing. I was in another world, and it was the most primal I had ever felt. During the last few contractions, I felt myself disassociate from my body. It was like I was watching the whole experience from above. I didn't hear instructions or encouragement. My eyes were shut and my breath was steady. 

I gave one final push and felt our baby's head fully emerge, then the rest of her body slip effortlessly out. In an instant, I snapped back to reality and reached down to grab my baby from the water. 

The rush of emotion that came next was overwhelming. I remember saying, "Oh my God! I did it! She's here!" I told Keane I loved him over and over again. I wept, holding our tiny newborn to my chest while he showered both his girls with kisses. 

After a minute or two, the midwives and nurse helped us move from the water to the bed where our family could rest together and bond. No one snatched our new baby away from us to weigh her or clean her up. No one rushed us to cut the cord before we were ready. In fact, they left it intact to the placenta for almost two hours so she could get every last drop of her cord blood. She stayed skin-to-skin with either Keane or me until we left the birth center to go home a mere 4 hours later. 

Being in such a raw space with Keane was a beautifully spiritual experience. He never once left my side. He lifted me up both physically and emotionally when I was at my weakest, bracing my weight during each contraction and praying for renewed strength for me when I needed it most.

My nurses and midwives were so nurturing and respectful throughout labor. They never doubted me and knew exactly what to say when I began to doubt myself. They had unfailing patience and assured me that everything I was experiencing was normal. Because of them, I was able to trust my body to do its job.

 Liv Evelyn came into this world in the most perfect way imaginable. I wanted an out-of-hospital,  natural childbirth experience with minimal medical interventions and that was exactly what I got. I was prepared to challenge my body and push it to its limits because I wanted to feel every second of my labor and bring our baby into this world wide-eyed and ready to nurse. I am forever grateful for my experience, for a healthy pregnancy and delivery, and a perfectly baby. 

Just in case you were interested, this is the video from MMC's website. It makes me cry each time I watch it. Also, the midwife in the video is the same one who delivered Liv. I love her :)


  1. Thank you so much for sharing this. I'm due in August & it's been so helpful to learn more about the labor experience from real people rather than books. Such a beautiful story & so eloquently written.

    1. Did your baby bundle arrive yet? I'd love to know how your labor and delivery went. Wishing you all the best.

  2. Note to self: don't read your blog at work unless I want to be crying at my desk! Beautiful story, thank you for sharing it! I'm proud of you and sooooo happy for you and Keane, and of course Liv xoxo

  3. Yup I totally cried reading your birth story and watching that video. I'm so glad that, unless things change, I will be having my 1st baby at a local birthing center. Thank you so much for sharing!!

    1. Thanks for reading, Megan! I can't say enough good things about birth centers and midwife care. All the best to you!

  4. Dear Kelly, thank you so much for sharing your story. I just discovered I am pregnant and your blogposts really help me love it even more.
    With love from Holland,

    1. Congrats on your pregnancy! Try to enjoy this time and soak up every last moment of uninterrupted sleep and alone time :) Thanks for reading.


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