Our next birth story was shared by one of my oldest friends, Kristan Bowlin. Kristan and I go way back! We were inseperable during our middle school days and are still friends to this day. Here is the beautifully crazy story of how her first child entered the world...
Adam (my husband) and I were not trying to get pregnant, but we also were not trying to prevent it. About two weeks into the school year (I was a teacher at the time), I realized that I was incredibly exhausted even after getting 10-12 hours of sleep at night, so I decided that maybe I should take a pregnancy test. It showed a “plus” sign, and Adam and I were instantly shocked, surprised, and excited all at the same time. I decided that a natural birth was what I wanted, and I wanted to use a midwife for my prenatal care/delivery. Fortunately, where I live, there is an amazing birthing center that offered exactly what I wanted. Adam was very supportive of my choice and comfortable with me giving birth in a non-hospital setting, so we set forward on this brand new adventure of pregnancy and midwifery care.
I should insert a side note here: at the age of 21, I had a LEEP procedure done because my pap smears kept coming back abnormal. A LEEP procedure means that the doctor takes out the portion of cervix where the abnormal cells are. Because of this, my midwife had told me that I might have a longer, harder labor because the cervix had to break through the scar tissue. This becomes important to my story.
My pregnancy with Evelyn was a smooth, uneventful pregnancy, and I planned to teach up until a week before my due date. Thursday evening, April 23 (the day before my last day before maternity leave), Adam and I were laying in bed and I decided I should go to the bathroom one last time. As soon as I stood, there was a huge gush of water and I ran to the bathroom. Adam came to the door and asked, “Did you wet yourself?” I replied that my water had broke and he needed to get my phone to call the midwife. After answering some questions that she had, she told me to call my doula to let her know what had happened and to try and get as much rest as possible because labor would probably start in about twelve hours. This was at 11 PM.
An hour later, I started feeling mild cramps in my belly. I texted my doula, Rebecca, and told her what I was feeling and she explained that those were contractions and if they were mild to try my best to get some sleep. I tossed and turned all night because my contractions came and went and were uncomfortable. Finally, at 6 AM, I woke Adam and told him to call my midwife and let her know that I had been having contractions since midnight. They were still fairly mild - I was able to breathe and talk through them, and they were mainly uncomfortable. My midwife, Mary, suggested to tell my doula to go ahead and come to our house and labor with me for as long as I felt comfortable and then head to the birthing center when I felt that I needed to be with her and the nurses. She also said that she would stop by around 9 AM to check my vitals, the baby, and my dilation.
About 9 or 9:30 AM, my midwife stopped by the house and my doula told her that my contractions were still fairly mild. Mary checked me and the baby and said that we were both doing well. She then checked my dilation and I was at 1.5 cm. I thought I was going to cry! I had been laboring since midnight and I was barely even dilated! She told me that she could feel the scar tissue that my cervix needed to work through and she also felt a small sack of water that hadn’t broken. She suggested laboring at home longer since I wasn’t dilated much and my contractions weren’t happening close together nor were they intense.
I’m not sure when, but at some point several hours later, my contractions became more intense. I didn’t want to talk during them and I didn’t want anyone talking to me if they didn’t have to. My doula suggested that I get into the tub and labor in the water because it might help me relax. Water sounded wonderful, so that’s what I did. Around 12:30 PM or so, I told Adam and Rebecca that I thought I was going to get sick, and I ended up vomiting. Rebecca suggested that we head to the birthing center because getting sick can be a sign of transition. She called my midwife to let her know we were headed that way.
Around 1:30 PM, we got ourselves settled in at the birthing center. The nurse, Kaycee, checked my vitals and listened to baby and Mary checked my dilation. I was at 3.5 cm. Again, I thought I was going to cry because I knew I had so much more to go and I was so exhausted from laboring for 13 hours. She told me that she was going to apply Evening Primrose Oil to help my cervix get through the scar tissue and she asked if I wanted her to break the small sack of water. I said yes to anything that would get my baby out quicker.
My midwife had been up for almost 48 hours straight with births at this point. Because my midwife lived so close to the center, and because everyone thought I had about 5-8 more hours of labor left, she said she was going to go home and get rest and that she would be back as soon as she got the call that she was needed. This was around 2 or 2:30 PM.
Almost instantly after my midwife left, my contractions picked up in both frequency and intensity. I got into the shower since the water felt so good at my house, and all of a sudden, I felt like pushing. I let my body do what it wanted to do, and my doula was comfortable with this. After about an hour in the shower, I said I wanted to get back into bed, but I could hardly move due to physical exhaustion and contractions, so I labored in the bathroom, on a shower stool, for a while.
Once I finally got back into bed, I felt incredibly pushy and like something had changed. Rebecca let Kaycee know and Mary was called. Kaycee came into the room, along with a Student Nurse Practitioner, to check on me and baby. I kept telling everyone that something felt different and that I needed Mary to be there. Kaycee assured me that there was no baby and that Mary was on her way. With my next push, I felt intense burning, which I remembered my sister-in- law describing as the “ring of fire” which meant baby was very near to coming. I looked at Rebecca and said, “It really really burns down there when I push!” Kaycee said, “No, Kristan, nothing is happening and Mary is on her way.” I yelled, “Stop telling me Mary is on her way! I don’t want to hear it until she walks through that door!” (Sounds like a laboring mom, right?)
I kept pushing because that’s what my body was telling me to do and all the while, I was feeling intense burning. All of a sudden, the Nurse Practitioner tapped Kaycee and pointed at my crotch. “Oh my gosh!” was all I heard and I looked at Rebecca who instantly told me, “Kristan, you have to stop pushing.” My baby’s head had started crowning and Mary hadn’t made it to the center yet. I started crying and telling Rebecca that I couldn’t stop pushing and she looked at me, right in the eyes, and said, “With this next contraction, look at me and breath. Focus on me and breathing and do not push.” I tried so hard not to push, but I couldn’t stop myself and I pushed. Rebecca looked at me and said, “Kristan, feel down there.” I did and felt something that I can only describe as feeling like a slimy alien. “WHAT IS THAT?!?” I yelled. “It’s your baby.” Rebecca replied.
At this exact moment, Mary popped her head in, and I felt an immediate sense of relief at seeing her face, but then things got crazy, or should I say crazier, because Kaycee shouted, “The head is out!” Mary rushed over, not even having time to put gloves on, and told me not to push because the baby’s cord was around her neck. Then she said, “Ok, push, Kristan.” In one or two more pushes, Mary handed my baby to me and she was placed directly on my chest. This was at 5:04 pm on April 24th, about three hours after my midwife had left. In three hours, I went from 3.5 cm dilation to having a baby. It was crazy, and it was intense, but that feeling of sweet relief when Evelyn was placed on my chest was the most amazing feeling ever, plus I finally got to meet this baby I had been carrying for almost 39 weeks. She was 6 pounds, 19 inches of sweet, healthy perfection. Adam and I were both crying and over the moon! And my midwife couldn’t believe that I had the baby so soon. She explained that my cervix must have instantly worked through the scar tissue after the Evening Primrose Oil had been applied and that is why I dilated so quickly. My labor with Evelyn was 17 hours long, but who knows how much of that time would have been taken off if I hadn’t had scar tissue to work out. Let’s just say that my labor story with Evelyn is well known at the birthing center!
About the Author: Kristan Bowlin is a former high school Spanish teacher turned stay-at- home mom. She lives with her husband, Adam, and two children, Evelyn and Finn, in Springfield, MO.