This birth story is another shared by my friend Kristan Bowlin. This is the amazing story of her second birth...
Once again, Adam and I weren’t trying to get pregnant the second time. But when Evelyn was 15 months old, and a few days before my 30th birthday, I realized how tired I had been feeling. I honestly figured it was because I spent my days chasing around a toddler, but I had a pregnancy test and decided to take it even thought I figured it would be negative. It said “Pregnant” almost instantly. After the initial shock wore off, I had to wait all afternoon for Adam to get home from work before I could tell him. I figured this news was better told in person and not via text. He was as shocked as I was, but again, we were both excited to be having our second baby.
Again, I had a smooth pregnancy; although, I did have much more nausea and morning sickness and couldn’t eat much until my second trimester. I decided to have this baby at the birthing center like I did with Evelyn since I loved the care I received and enjoyed not being in a hospital setting. Mary had recently had her second baby, so she wasn’t taking on clients or going to births, so I met with the other midwives at the practice during my prenatal appointments. As the baby’s due date drew closer, I made sure every single one of them knew about Evelyn’s birth and how quickly it progressed. Every one of them agreed that once my labor started, I needed to head to birthing center ASAP.
At my 37 week appointment, I was checked because my midwife couldn’t tell how the baby wa laying and wanted to make sure he wasn’t breech. She said he was definitely head down, and that I was 2.5 cm dilated and about 50-60% effaced. She told me that I would probably have the baby in the next 2-8 days.
The next day, Friday, I hit the 38 week mark, and I was physically and mentally prepared to have my baby. On Saturday evening, I noticed some thick discharge when I went to the bathroom. I texted the midwife call number to see if the discharge was anything to worry about. Amy (the midwife on call) replied that it was most likely my mucus plug and to watch for signs of labor in the next 24-48 hours. I became so excited - I was going to have this baby! During the night, I woke up with some mild cramping, but it didn’t last long so I went back to sleep. On Sunday, I called Amy and let her know that I was still seeing discharge and that I had had some cramping during the night and she said to stay in touch. After that, nothing. Nothing happened.
No more cramping, no more discharge, nothing. The next day, the same thing happened: mild cramping during the night, some discharge during the day, but nothing else. On Tuesday, at my 38 week appointment, Amy said that she was expecting me to have a baby over the weekend and was surprised that I didn’t come in. I told her I was expecting the same, but nope, no baby.
Wednesday came and went and during the night, I had more cramping than I had previously, but again, it stopped. Thursday rolled around and all day I had a little discharge, but no cramping. I became convinced this baby was not going to come any time soon and that he was simply teasing me.
On Thursday, since Adam teaches a college course at night, my mom brought Evelyn and I dinner and stayed to eat with us. Around 6 PM, I started feeling some cramps, but I told myself that they were going to go away. My mom said that she was going to head out and I thought about telling her that I thought I might be having contractions, but I became convinced that it was another false alarm and didn’t say anything. Around 6:30 PM, I decided to start Evelyn’s bedtime routine early and get her in the bath. As she was taking a bath, I realized that my cramping was continuing and didn’t seem as if it was stopping. I texted Adam and told him that he should head home because I was fairly certain that I was having contractions, and I decided to wait and call the midwife since I was in the process of getting Evelyn ready for bed.
I’m very thankful that I had that final evening of putting Evelyn to bed just her and I and no one else at home. As I was rocking her to sleep at around 7 PM, I was still having contractions, but I got to cuddle my first born and really enjoy that last time of putting her to bed as my only one. It was hard rocking her to sleep and then transferring her to bed as I had contractions, but I it was worth the discomfort to spend those moments with her.
Once Adam came home, I called Carla, the midwife on call. It was about 7:30 PM, and I told her that I was pretty sure that I had been having contractions for the past hour. Since we both knew that I had been having some false alarms, we decided that I would time my contractions for the next hour and call her back to let her know how frequently they were occurring, their length, and their intensity. I also texted my mom to let her know what was happening since she would be the one taking care of Evelyn, and I called my doula (Rebecca) to let her know as well.
I sat down to watch Grey’s Anatomy (why I thought I would be able to concentrate on a TV show is beyond me, but I really wanted to sit and watch it), all while timing my contractions. As the next hour progressed, I realized these contractions were not going to stop and I was starting to close my eyes to breathe through them. At 8:30 PM, I called Carla again and reported that my contractions were lasting about 50 seconds and coming every four minutes. I told her with how fast Evelyn came, I felt like I needed to come in and get checked. She agreed that was the best plan. I called my mom and told her she needed to come over to be with Evelyn and texted Rebecca that we were headed to birthing center. Adam and I finished packing some last minute items, and when my mom arrived, we left, wondering if the next time we came home, we’d have a baby in our arms.
We got to the birth center at 9 PM, and Abby (the student nurse midwife) checked me. She said that I was at 3 cm and about 80-90% effaced. Carla told me that she would let me labor for a couple of hours and then come check me again to see what progress I was making. Rebecca arrived, and she, Adam, and I got into our laboring rhythm. Adam put on a wonderful play list, and Rebecca used strategies from my last labor that she knew helped me deal with the pain. My contractions continued to come and go, and I was to the point where I didn’t want anyone talking to me while I was having one. They felt incredibly painful and all I could think was, “I have so much more to go; I’m only at a three and these hurt so badly!”
Around 11 PM or so, Carla and Abby came back into the room. Carla sat down on the bed and said, “I think Abby should check you again and then we will determine if you stay and labor here or if you should go back home.” When she said these words, I thought I was going to cry. I didn’t want to go back home with no baby! All of a sudden, I went into a contraction, only this time, the contractions were nonstop. They kept rolling into one another, and it felt as if I didn’t get a break. I didn’t know it but Abby told Carla, “I’m not going to check her. She’s going to have her baby tonight.” and they left the room again.
My contractions were so intense, and I knew I had only been at the birthing center a short time. I started crying, and I looked at Adam and said, “I can’t do this anymore, and I’m only 3 cm dilated. I have so much more to go, but I can’t do this! It hurts so bad!” He and Rebecca were amazing. They both stayed calm and continued to affirm that yes, in fact, I could do this because I was already doing it.
The next part of my labor is such a blur because things happened very fast, so I’m not exactly sure on the timing. I told Adam and Rebecca that I had to use the bathroom and the moment I stood, I felt the urge to push. I voiced this, and Rebecca told me to breathe through the urge, and as I went to bathroom, she went and got the midwives. When I got back to the bed, Abby checked me and I was at an 8. This means I had gone from a 3 to an 8 in about two hours - no wonder my contractions were so intense and kept coming one on top of the other! Abby told me, “Kristan, don’t push. You need to breathe through the contractions and do not push.” I told her that I couldn’t resist pushing and that I just needed this baby out of me because I couldn’t do it anymore. Abby, just like Adam and Rebecca, told me, “But you are doing it, Kristan, and you are going to meet your baby very soon.” As the contractions came, and my body wanted to push so badly, I did my best to breathe and focus on Adam. Finally, I told Abby that I really needed to push and basically started begging her to let me push. She told me that she could break my waters to help baby move lower and get me to a 10. I immediately said "yes!" Rebecca asked me, “Kristan, are you sure you want her to break your water?” I said, “Yes. Whatever allows me to push and get this baby out.”
Very soon after Abby broke my waters, she and Carla told me I could start pushing when my contractions came. Because I tore badly with Evelyn due to how fast she came, Abby and Carla did a great job of coaching me and pacing me through pushing. What was even more comforting to me is that Mary (who had stepped back from being at births due to the birth of her second son the previous fall) came to my birth at this point because I had asked her to be there if she could. I was so happy to see her!
Pushing seemed like it took forever. Evelyn came out so quickly, but this baby seemed to be taking his time. I kept asking, “Is he crowning yet?” The pressure was so intense that I could hardly handle it, plus I was exhausted. They kept reassuring me that he was getting lower and lower, and it got to the point where I was yelling, “Please get this baby out of me!” I honestly didn’t know how much more I could take because the pressure was so intense.
After what felt like forever, they told me that his head was out. I was so relieved, but so tired, and I knew I still had the rest of him to get out. Carla told me, “Kristan, give small pushes if you can’t handle one big push.” I did this, and they said, “His shoulders are out. Give one more push, and your baby will be out and you’ll get to meet him.” So, with all my energy, I gave one more push, and Abby placed my baby boy on my chest. He was perfect and healthy, and I’m so incredibly grateful for the amazing coaching I had with pushing from my midwives. Because of them and their pacing, I didn’t tear like I did with Evelyn, which I was grateful for. I had one first-degree tear, but both Mary and Carla agreed that it wasn’t worth stitching.
Finn was born at 1 am, on March 24, 2017, exactly 23 months after his big sister was born. He weighed in at 7 pounds, 4 ounces, and measured 20 3/4” long. I couldn’t believe I had birthed such a big, long baby. I know that he is actually an average-sized baby, but since I’m only 5 feet tall and very petite, he was a big baby for me.
After Finn was born, Abby looked at me and said, “Kristan, you were only here for four hours before you had a baby! Can you believe it?” I couldn’t. I knew Finn would come fast, but I didn’t know everything would happen quite so quickly. I thought Evelyn’s labor was intense, but Finn’s was much more so. I’m so grateful for my birthing team, husband, and doula. Natural childbirth is really, really hard and without them, I don’t know that I would’ve made it through my labor with Finn.
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.