20 September 2010

Ewan's Birth Story

I won't lie: it's a long one I wrote here, and it's probably full of grammatical errors of which I would normally be ashamed -- but since I just had a baby, I'm giving myself a pass. Just letting you know ahead of time!

* * *

I wrote recently about how my blood pressure had been climbing fairly consistently at my doctor’s office visits. And I wrote about how I knew it was related to anxiety attending what was waiting for us, but that our care provider decided to run some tests anyway – just so there were no surprises. I was sent home with a prescription for blood pressure medication and we were scheduled to follow up with a non-stress test at 3 pm on Friday, September 17 so they could see how Ewan was handling me being on the blood pressure medication. I got a call from the doctor’s office in the middle of my work day on Thursday, September 16 that I was to go home and be on modified bed rest (lying down or sitting).

At first I was upset, and then I decided I’d make the most of it. I slept nine and a half hours that night. I woke up without an ounce of tension in my whole body. I joked with James that they should try and take my blood pressure now – if I would even have one. I rested all the next day: reading my book, snoozing in and out of a few movies, letting James take care of me. I thought of all the things I could finish: packing my hospital bag, waiting for the arrival of those last few packages that would mean our material readiness, reading and finishing some books, relaxing before our little boy came.

As I rested on Friday, Ewan was incredibly active as usual. And as was my custom, I recognized and praised each movement, laughing as I watched and felt feet, knees, and elbows poking out of me. I could feel my anxiety mount slightly as we got closer to the time to leave for the doctor. It was so deeply ingrained in my subconscious, still; I told myself that Ewan was handling things well, having been so active all day.

After we got to the doctor’s office, I was hooked up to a couple of monitors to measure contractions, movement, and the baby’s heart rate. I was sent for an ultrasound. It was pretty obvious they didn’t like what they were seeing. The little guy that had been so active all day (and all the days before) hadn’t moved at all in nearly an hour – no flexing, stretching, or anything. The ultrasound tech didn’t need to say anything. It was clear we weren’t going to hear anything good.

When we talked to our doctor right after this appointment, and the look on her face was sober. She explained what they saw on the tests and how it wasn’t good news – how babies in utero typically sleep for 20-40 minute stretches at a time at most. She said with any other doctor, this would be a cue for an automatic c-section. She advised us to head to the hospital where she would meet us in about thirty minutes. They would monitor me there and quite likely, induce labor.

We took in a collective sharp intake of breath. Once more, we were faced with a reality we hadn’t quite expected.

This took us entirely by surprise – our little squirmer not moving at all –alarm bells going off. I took a deep breath, wanting to take it in, but not entirely able to. Why hadn’t he moved?

I trust my doctor completely and knew she wouldn’t be alarmed unless there were good cause. So we called our doula, called my family, and drove the two miles from the doctor’s office to the hospital, stopping on the way to get some food. I hadn’t packed a hospital bag – we hadn’t come prepared with anything. I had my purse and my cell phone and the clothes I was wearing. We weren’t ready for this.

I thought of all the things at home that I wanted with me: my birthing ball, all the things on my list of what to pack in my hospital bag, and at least some vague notion of who was going to come to the hospital and when and what we were going to do. Several text messages were exchanged. We had fortunately given my sister a key to our apartment when she was down for my last baby shower the week before. There was a list sitting by the computer of what needed to be packed. We sent more text messages, asking for more of what we knew we would need.

When James and I arrived at the birth center, they were expecting us, our doctor having called ahead. We were taken to our room and checked in. I put on a gown and mentally tried to prepare myself for our time there. It still felt so surreal, like this wasn’t really happening. I had been mentally preparing myself to go past the due date, and here I was getting ready to be induced two and a half weeks prior.

 Some very sweet and funny nurses came in and captured some of my information: food allergies, age, and the like. Everyone there was prepped on our story and knew what was going on. Their own ease helped me relax.

They hooked me up to the monitors again to measure contractions, fetal movement, and the heart rate. By this time, Ewan was squirming and rolling consistently again. His heart rate was making the variations that they look for and expect. When Dr. J came by to check on us, she said she would have had an entirely different assessment if she had seen this strip just the hour before when we were in her office. Pointing to the printout we were seeing at the hospital she said, This is what we want to see.

Top graph  (in blue) are baby's heart rate. Bottom lines are my contractions

 That Ewan. What a little stinker! 

She explained to us what our options were. She could send us home, seeing as the baby was obviously doing fine at this point. Her concern was that there might be a drop in activity that we wouldn’t know to be alarmed about and that they wouldn’t be able to get him out in time. That’s what my heart can’t handle, she said, choking up and her eyes misting over. The other option was to stay and induce. She would try some natural means first, stripping the membranes and seeing how that worked before we tried anything like pitocin. She left us so we could discuss, and would come back to check and see what kind of progress I might have made already.

She left the room so James and I could discuss what we wanted to do. We looked back at the monitor and the nurses pointed out I was having contractions about every three minutes, each lasting about a minute. They couldn’t believe I wasn’t really feeling anything yet. They weren’t the least bit painful, but were decently strong. It just felt like the kind of tightness you might have in your stomach when you’re sitting up in bed.

Dr. J came back to checked me several minutes later and asked what we wanted to do. We hadn’t entirely come to a consensus, but I had a deep level of trust in what she saw, in what she was telling us. I knew she cared about us and this baby. I knew she wanted a healthy mom and a healthy baby. And so we decided to stay. This was at about 5 pm.

That’s when I learned I was already 3 cm dilated and 80% effaced: decent progress for not really feeling anything at all. And look at that: I was still contracting well on my own. She stripped the membranes and we braced ourselves to meet our baby, heads still swimming in thick clouds of surreal. We called our doula again and let her know what was happening and she gave us instructions on when we should call her back: at the point at which I felt like I was going to need help.

The evening wore on little by little and eventually my family arrived with my hospital bag, my birthing ball, and the other things we had asked for. I joked through my contractions, feeling them obviously at this point, but was still comfortable enough to joke through them. They were coming every two-and-a-half to three minutes and were increasing in intensity. I updated Facebook, we watched videos on YouTube, and we waited.

I knew moving around in different positions was going to be my best bet, so we were hooked up to the monitors that would allow me to walk around, get in the bathrub, or sit on the birthing ball. I did it all, walking the halls, sitting on the ball, relaxing in the tub. I knew this movement will help bring Ewan down. The last thing I wanted to do was to be stuck in the bed.

My progress was monitored at 11 pm and 2 am. I was progressing: 4 cm, then 5. By the time I got to five, I was 100% effaced. This was good progress. This was good news. Dr. J was going to go home, but assured me she was just six minutes away and would be here to deliver this baby. By about 3:30 am, I was at 6.5 cm. Things were uncomfortable at this point and I was having a lot of back labor. James, my mom, and my sister took turn rubbing my back through contractions and we tried different positions to provide relief. We called Annie since I knew I was getting to the point where I was losing focus and the ability to get myself to relax in between.

When Annie (our doula) arrived and I was so relieved. She has such a gentle and compassionate way of taking charge. We walked, we sat on the birthing ball, we moved to the tub, I sat on the toilet for awhile. She helped both James and I. She commanded my focus and taught me helpful ways to breathe.

I had gone without any pain relief or other augmentation for my entire labor; this was my plan. I didn’t want an epidural, I didn’t want analgesics – I wanted to experience this naturally not only for my own sake, but because I believed this would be best for Ewan too. As I entered the transition phase, the contractions became stronger and closer together. I started waiting throughout and in between. I was in so much pain. Annie commanded open eyes, breathing through loose flappy lips like a horse, low tones from the back of an open throat, a relaxed body that welcomed the contractions. I was only getting a minute or so in between contractions. It took more will than I had at times to “blow that one away” and relax as deeply as I could in between.

Annie the doula!!

I could see how it pained James to see me like this. He held my hands, maintained eye contact with me, and cried with me.

Having done a fair amount of laboring on my side in the tub, we decided to get up, knowing that changing the position would help move the baby down. No sooner did I stand up in the tub than another contraction came. I held on to James’ arms as I bent my knees and bent my upper body over, breathing as Annie had instructed me. Suddenly things felt very different – my water bag (which had not broken yet) was coming out.

They told me it wouldn’t be long now. I was fully dilated and ready to push.

Dr. J was paged at about 8:00 am or so (from what I can remember), but it could be any minute. They got me back into the bed. A team of doctors and NICU nurses surrounded me, waiting. I was ecstatic with relief – it wouldn’t be long now.

The water bag had broken and we tried a few pushes in bed. I was still having incredible back labor with each contraction and bearing down to push was excruciating. My body was shaking and exhausted, adrenaline pumping through me. I got a several good pushes in that helped the baby down, but it still wasn’t happening as quickly as we thought.

Dr J finally arrived, surprised at how quickly I had progressed to be ready to push. She checked me and found that there was a small lip of the cervix holding the baby back; she explained this was common in first-time mothers and how it was probably my water bag holding it back the whole time. She emptied my bladder to remove any pillow he might be resting on in hopes of making things progress.

I was starting to feel discouraged; the pain was incredible, the contractions still stopping for only about a minute and lasting for at least as long. They had me lean over the top of the birthing ball on the bed. And then we tried  squatting – I knew this would be effective, but my body was so shaky and I was feeling so weak. I kept saying I couldn’t do this. I held on to Annie in the front, and James supported me from behind. I squatted deep and pushed hard with every contraction. We went through several this way until I knew I needed to move to the bed.

We pushed more from the bed, Annie and James and the nurses helping me hold back my legs. It took more strength than I felt like I had available. I just wanted Ewan to come out.

And then we heard his heart rate was dropping. They had put an internal monitor in to measure his heart rate more accurately, and it was clear he needed to get out. I pushed hard and felt the burning that meant he was crowning. Dr J explained she was going to use the vacuum to help him out since his heart rate was telling us he needed help. I pushed and pushed and with one extended pull from the vacuum, I could feel his head come out. And then his body.

And then suddenly there he was, on my belly. Ewan. This so-loved, prayed over, extraordinary baby. Saturday, September 18 at 9:49 am.

I was all kinds of emotions: relieved, ecstatic, blissful. Still in disbelief. Nurses took him and cleaned him up, wrapping him in blankets and putting a knit hat on his head. They put him on my chest and suddenly, all of the previous seventeen hours had been worth it. He was not as pink as a normal baby, but had good color. I touched his little turned-up nose, stroked his face and just held on to him. He wasn’t wailing, but just gentle cries like I had – maybe he was as relieved as I was.

Just born!

Annie snapped a few family photos for us. The NICU nurses took him from me after a minute or so, putting him in the isolette that was waiting to be rolled off to the NICU. James went with him, meeting my family on the way. They couldn’t believe it was him – he was alert and awake, looking cute and pink as babies do.

Annie stayed with me and held my hand as James was away. And Dr J started to stitch me up. She suspected the tearing wouldn’t have been an issue had we not used to vacuum in order to help him out quickly. But I was torn up pretty good – third degree tears in multiple places. I really didn’t care.

I was suddenly so shaky and cold as I came off the adrenaline. Annie held my hand and told me what a good job I did (even though I had been wailing like a banshee for the previous two or three hours), how strong I was, and how perfect he looked. Dr J took her time stitching me up. The nurse hugged and congratulated me and it was just the four of us. For that hour or so, it felt like a perfect little tribe of women who had stayed with me through that, reminding me that I could do it, that I was meant to do it, and that I would.

And I did.

James eventually came back with pictures and stats: 6 lbs, 7 oz and 18.5” long. Beautiful and perfect. Dark hair with a little curl in it. Eyes wide open. Breathing well on his own. Stats looking absolutely perfect.

Visiting him in the NICU

We later found out that after doing a thorough examination, everything but his poor little heart is absolutely perfect: lungs are strong and healthy, liver and stomach and kidneys are working and in the right places, good bowel sounds (and movements). Tracking right in the middle for all his measurements except his head, which was greater than the 90the percentile (the better to hold all those brains in). 

A few other facts not included in the story:
  • My BP was measured periodically throughout labor. It was consistently in normal ranges, one time measuring even 117/68. I think that at its highest during labor, it was 133/80. On Friday afternoon at the doctor’s office (after we obviously knew we were getting bad news), it was 158/100. 
  • From the time we were admitted (and I had no idea I was in labor yet) to the time Ewan was born was about 17 hours. I’m told this is “quick” for a first-time mom, though the last several hours (from transition on) felt like 17 days.  ;o)
  • No pitocin taken or required! We found it simply miraculous that because my BP had been high in the doctor’s office, they took care to put me on medication and see how the baby reacted to it. The lack of his movement would not have been detected when it was, and we would not have known to go to the hospital. Baby Ewan was telling us he was ready to go. 
  • Labor started totally on its own. I was already having contractions that were moving things along. Stripping the membranes sped things up, I’m sure. But it really was baby Ewan’s time to come. I feared being induced, but just as I had hoped, I went into labor on my own anyway. 
  • I had no pain medication of any kind for labor and delivery. Believe me, I can hardly brag about this, because in my mind I was begging for it – screaming out to God and whoever else would listen about the pain, about how tired I was, about how I couldn’t do it anymore, about how I wanted that baby out. I never actually said anything explicitly about being given drugs or an epidural, but I was thinking about it (back labor is hell). As much as it hurt, I’m glad now that I didn’t. I learned that yes, I could do it. 
  • I think you already know this, but I really love and trust our doctor. She guided us through an incredibly difficult time and showed us a lot of love and personalized care. Lord willing if we should have another baby, I would seriously consider seeing her again and opting for a hospital birth (though she did say there is no reason I couldn’t have an out-of-hospital delivery for my next baby), just so she could take care of us again. She is nothing short of amazing. 
  • Annie the doula was worth every penny and more. Dr J said it too, and I will add as emphatically as I can: (in my humble opinion) every pregnant woman should have a doula. I know for a fact I would not have made it through labor and delivery naturally were it not for her. She was tremendous, and obviously meant to do exactly what she does.


Unknown said...

A beautiful birth for a beautiful little boy. You also gave him another gift, as a heart baby he'll be told often he needs to do things differently or won't be normal. From the start, you showed that he can do things the normal way, and that it's often better. You are an awesome, awesome mama. And, when you write about the tribe of supportive women? Chills. That's how it's supposed to be.

christianne said...

So, this story totally brought tears to my eyes. I've never read a birth story that made me cry before. Yours did. I am positive it's because my heart is so connected to you and has known you so well. I felt right there with you in the story, and I could see how beautiful this entire experience was.

I am so, so thankful for Ewan's life. He is a beautiful boy, and his life has already touched so many! What an amazing thing, to have touched so many people without having done anything more than just be himself.

And PS: You are a WARRIOR!! :)

Love you.


joye said...

Holy tears, Batman! Kirsten, that was absolutely beautiful.

The Emery's said...

Absolutley beautiful Kirsten! I had to take breaks while reading it to compose myself- so many tears of joy for you!!! CONGRATS!!! And welcome to the world EWAN!!!

Nadine said...

I love the pictures! I loved reading all about Ewan's arrival!!!! Thanks so much for sharing! I really hope I can be as strong as you girl! we don't have a doula but I want so badly to do it naturally. I'm terrified, but I really want to do it. I know I've said it a million times already, but I'm positive you won't mind reading it again...HE'S GORGEOUS! I hope you are able to get your package for him...it should have gotten there just in time, lol. I find it too funny that cute little stinker is so stubborn!!! I love it! He is his own person already! :) He was ready! I'm so glad that he's doing well, and we will continue to pray very hard for his little broken heart to be fixed! He's absolutely gorgeous and you're amazing!!! CONGRATS!

Tara said...

Praise God - Beautiful story! Thank you so much for sharing - you are an inspiration =) I am so glad that things went the way you had hoped for. Praying for your healing (I, also, had to recover from the vacuum!) and of course for precious Ewan and his journey.

Sarah said...

Perfect! What a beautiful story! I'm crying here, and shaking a little, remembering in my body my own labor and delivery. I remember saying I couldn't do it, and the shaking and cold and letdown afterwards, the terrible back labor, the weird calm confidence that comes with knowing you could do it. I'm so glad you have this here, for you to look back on and remember!

Unknown said...

What a beatiful story. I am in awe of your precious little man and continuing to send prayers to your family. Thinking about you!

Erika said...

What a beautiful birth story! You did an incredible job, Kirsten! Congratulations! Little Ewan is just beautiful! We will keep praying for him & you! Congrats again! :)

Rebecca said...

Beautiful! Every story is so unique. I am so thankful that you were able to have him naturally, just as you wanted. God provided just the support team you needed and orchestrated everything at the perfect moment for Ewan's safe arrival.

Kirsten, I am so happy for you! You did it! He's here and he's beautiful =)

It's crazy to think. . .God used your body to bring perfectly formed eternal soul into this world. Isn't it miraculous!?

JD said...

There will be many things in the next month that feel like they're out of your control, tubes, barriers to holding Ewan like you'd want and being at home without him yet. But YOU were the champion of his birth, in control, using your instincts and relying on your support team to create the birth you wanted. I'm so very happy for you. You have captured your birth story perfectly. THAT is the kind of hospital birth every woman should get to experience. The least amount of medical intervention you want but all there within an arms reach if you needed it. Evergreen is a WONDERFUL facility and I'm SO HAPPY for you!

You did it!!!

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful story Ewan will get to read one day. To know that love and determination brought him into this world.

Congratulations on the birth of your beautiful son. May you hold that memory in your heart forever.

Shannon Egan

Anonymous said...


What a great birth story. He is absolutely beautiful and you guys look so happy :)

Tracy said...

What a beautiful baby, Congrats to you and your hubby.
I am surprised at how detailed you are. I had 3 children and all I remember is 36...14...18... those are the hours I was in labour with each of them. LOL

Darlene S. said...

I stumbled onto your blog from Melissa Elsner's blog and I was so captivated by all of your touching pregnancy photos posted. Your belly was absolutely beautiful and I am so happy that your baby is here finally safely and with health. God bless your family!

Jamie said...

What a beautiful story and a beautiful little boy! You have been in my prayers and will continue to be. Isn't it awesome to give birth in front of the entire NICU team? My count was 9 doctors/nurses, my mom, and my husband. The nurses were talking about the ring of fire and singing the Jonny Cash song while Madi was crowning. Oh, the memories. Keep us updated!

Angie said...

Gorgeous story, photos, and of course, sweet baby Ewan! Congratulations... so happy he's here!

Stefenie said...

What an amazing birth story. Thank you so much for allowing us to be part of it.

I am so happy that Ewan's birth went so well an he came when he was ready.

Praying for his continued health and stability in the coming days!

Great job Momma!!

Unknown said...

just wow.
this is every bit incredible , beautiful , and gave me shivers.

you are amazing.

Joelle said...

Praise. Applause. Bow. Gratitude.

terri said...

i admire your ability to record the details of such an emotional experience. you have a very generous heart. that is going to come in handy in the coming days and weeks. and years. i'm so thankful that your story is moving forward in this way. i'm so thankful that ewan is doing so well. i pray that this will continue, and that very soon you will have your little boy home with you.

Shay said...

so beautiful! thank you for sharing your birthing story...you amaze me! Ewan will have this to remember his amazing entry into our world! still praying for you all!

liz houser photography said...

what an amazing and wonderful birth story! god has already shown his hand upon your lives by helping you bring this sweet baby boy into the world at just the right time! god always has the best timing and he always knows best. may you trust him and may your faith be made strong as you watch him work in your baby boy's life and in both of yours'. he is such an amazing and loving god and all he wants to do is love you and bless you. may god truly bless your sweet, beautiful family!

Anonymous said...

Not sure if you remember who I am, but Katie Van Kooten is my sister and I've been praying for all of you. Reading this story just now made me cry. I'm so glad you wrote it and have it...there is nothing more miraculous than birth. Still praying.

hannah klein said...

I found your blog through Cohen's mommy's blog. My birthday is September 18th as well. I'm so honored to share a birthday with your beautiful angel boy.

Ausmerican Housewife - Creating with Kara Davies said...

17 hours is pretty quick for a first timer. I was 3 hours and 10 minutes (from waking up and knowing it wasn't braxton hicks but the real deal, to Evan's head and body fully out) which is dangerously fast for a first full-term pregnancy (2nd baby). I did it natural too, which wasn't my plan but definitely surprised me nonetheless that I could deliver naturally.

I took 2 paracetamol (generic pain relief) tablets 5 minutes before Evan's first foot came out (he turned the night before and came out the wrong way) and had no more medications as he came out so quick. Incredible that we can do it without drugs. (From here on out though, for my sanity and my husband's, and our parents, we are having planned c-sections.)

Evan's birth scared the snot out of me and the thought of giving birth vaginally ever again (with or without pain meds) is too much.

I wish our babes weren't in heaven together, but they are.pur

Jessica Davis said...

I just want you to know how very heartbroken I am to read this. I know the pain all too well. I lost my only child, Aaden, to CHD this past November. Saying goodbye was the hardest thing Ive ever had to do. My husband & I have been talking about another child. But I have been feeling so guilty for doing so. It was only until I read your post about your new pregnancy, that i realized how much I can relate to you as a mother. Reading it has gave me so much hope & inspiration. I just wanted to thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing your story. God Bless you & little Ewan.. :)

TheCorbinStory said...

I found your blog through twitter. I, too, lost a child. He fought for three months against heart defects. He is my inspiration to advocate pulse ox. I see Kristine already found your blog. She is an amazing pulse ox advocator. I just wanted to drop in and say I'm so sorry. I'm sorry you lost your sweet boy and I'm sorry he had to fight so hard. It is a tough road that many cannot relate to when you watch your child in the hospital. Your blog is heart breaking and inspiring. Keep writing and I don't blame you for turning off the comments! God bless you all. Love from Corbin's mom in WV.

Unknown said...

The birthing process is really important for the woman who is going to be delivering his baby in the world, buts some people love to give their baby birth naturally in the natural place which can very risky for them but they will prepare them for it. So the self hypnosis MP3playing will helps the mother to give birth his baby by feeling less stress and pain.

jaqulin said...

That is such a nice story and you had a wonderful journey. Me and my husband is also planning for it and we are following best pregnancy planning method which will help us from falling apart during this critical time. Hoping for the best.

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