Sunday, September 15, 2013

Henry's birth

News: I'm training to be a Doula!

I attended my first birth last month. One of my close friends from college, Laura, asked me if I would be her Doula, of course I said yes, and I'm so glad that I did. I had the most incredible experience. It was completely not what I was expecting, but I think there is beauty in that.

Henry's Birth...

One of my roommates from college was visiting for the day. We went to the Northwest Washington Fair and were having a lovely time. I had woken up that morning feeling excited for the time I'd get to spend with my friend and feeling anxious about Laura, every day felt like THE day. At this point Laura had had a couple false alarms and was overdue, so I was pretty attached to my ridiculously attached. I had the volume turned up all the way and kept it in my pocket, checking every 15 or so minutes, taking it from room to room with me. I was so paranoid that I would miss her call! I heard that was common, but I did not think it would be that dramatic. I had all of my things packed into my car 

My friend, Sheila, and I were having a lovely time at the fair. We sat down inside the food court to take a break after going on a bunch of rides, seeing the animals, and eating really expensive fair food. As soon as I sat down I heard my phone ring and I pulled it out to see a picture of Laura pop up. I just knew this was it, it had to be! I looked at Sheila and she had the biggest grin on her face. Laura told me that her water had broken a couple hours before and that she had an appointment at the birth center in about an hour (5pm). She told me to start heading to town and she’d let me know if I needed to go to the birth center or to her house.

I felt my adrenaline start pumping, I was so excited and also a little nervous. Sheila’s mom and friend came to meet us at that moment and I told them I had to leave. I gave Sheila a big hug and told her to pray for us. I then proceeded to walk extremely quickly to my car (why did I hurry so much?!) and call my sister to tell her the news.

It was 4:30 when I made it back to town. I hadn’t heard from Laura yet so I decided to go home and take a shower. I put my phone on the counter right next to the shower and jumped in. Again, I hurried. I was thinking a bunch of different stuff. Praying, going through lists making sure I had everything, planning my already-planned-out route to the birth center, and wondering if I should shave my legs.

I got a text from Eric, Laura’s husband, as I was getting out of the shower. He texted me “Come to the birth center now please.” And I HURRIED. Haha! I suppose I thought that it was happening all very fast since they were already there and he told me to come “now please”. I grabbed a snack and hit the road.
I made it to the birth center at about 5:15, all the while I was practicing deep breathing exercises to calm my rapidly beating heart. 

It was like entering a different world. It was quiet and calm and full of energy at the same time. I found where Laura’s room was and knocked on the door. A woman I hadn’t met answered, she turned out to be one of Laura’s midwifes, Ann. She was very granola, just what you'd expect a Bellingham midwife to look like! She was just leaving so I said goodbye and went into say hello to Laura and Eric. She was doing well, contractions every few minutes but not very long or strong.

As labor progressed Eric and I found a system that worked for making her more comfortable during contractions. Laura would wrap her arms around Eric’s neck, he held her up, and I would apply pressure to her sacrum, slowly moving the heel of my hand up to the middle of her back. It worked really well for a long time. Laura was really uncomfortable, which I was not exactly expecting. She couldn’t find a position that worked for her during her contractions or even afterwards when resting. It seemed like nothing felt right to her. This surprised me because I always thought a woman would just know what felt good and that different positions would help, that was a stereotype that got knocked down that night. Eventually she decided to get into the birth tub so that her body could relax a little. She couldn’t find a comfortable spot in there either. Laura ended up lying on her side and holding onto her husband’s arm very strongly during a contraction, it looked as if she’d pull his arm right off!

She labored all throughout the night. It was my first all-nighter. I went out to get food for us at about 2am. It was so strange to be out and about at that hour. I was glad that there was a 24 hour grocery store nearby! Poor Laura was so tired by this point. She labored most of the night on her side in the bed. Eric or I would massage her back during a contraction, but at this point it was just her and her baby doing the work. We could do nothing really to help, and it made me feel bummed because I just wanted her to feel better. I remember thinking "she is so miserable, is this what it's like? Is this what I have been idolizing? This is not as glamorous as I thought!". Gosh, how ridiculous of me! 

Laura got up a few times during the night, but most of it was spent on her side sleeping between contractions. At this point she did not want to eat anything so we tried to get as much water in her as possible. She was definitely losing energy.

Laura’s midwives, were called to another birth during the night so Eric and I were pretty much left to our own devices. In the next room at the birth center a second-time mama had was also having a baby so there were two more midwives at the center. They came in periodically to look after Laura while her midwifes were gone. 

I took a rest for about an hour while Laura took her second dip in the birth tub. I woke up to a mild panic as the neighboring midwife came in and told us that Laura was too hot from the water and her body was responding negatively. We got her out and back into the bed to cool off. I felt terrible since Eric and I had drawn the water for the bath. I didn’t realize it was too hot.

By the time dawn broke we all had gotten our second wind. Laura was up and on the birth ball, actively laboring to get her baby out. She looked wonderful. I went out to get us breakfast. When I returned she was doing great, walking and moaning and moving her hips. I thought for sure she must be close. One of her midwives returned and checked Laura. After all that hard work the night before, she had only dilated 2 cm so she was now about 5cm dilated. Poor girl was tired. It looked like all her beautiful encouragment and energy just flew right out of her. She looked defeated and my heart broke for her. I was so sad for her. All that work! It felt unfair. We decided to let her labor a little more and see if she could get some more progress.

Aww, what a happy mama!

It was a gorgeous day!

After breakfast and lots of walking Laura was checked again. She hadn’t progressed. The decision was made to transfer to the hospital. It was tough for her, it’s not what she planned, but she had done all she could at the birth center and she wanted the best for her little guy. I remember feeling so strange, I hadn’t even considered that she would transfer so it felt pretty surreal to me. I decided to go home and shower before meeting them at the hospital.

I got to the hospital at about noon and Laura was already receiving an epidural. I waited until they were done before coming in. She looked so tired when I came in, but I could tell she felt a lot better. She had a bunch of tubes and things stuck to her and wasn’t allowed to get off the bed because of the epidural. I don’t think that they told her that beforehand because afterwards when she was told she couldn't get up she was not happy. I felt awful for her, but tried not to show it. I chatted with her and Eric, took some photos, rested for another hour, and took a couple walks.

By this point Eric hadn’t really taken any time for himself and fell asleep on the comfy couch/bed. Laura and I chatted for a few hours, looking through hospital drawers and just waiting for Henry to come. I really loved that time, I could tell Laura was feeling better and I was glad to have time to chat with her during this whole process. 

We woke Eric up after Laura was checked and was at 8 or 9 cm, I can’t remember. He was pretty sleepy for the first little bit there, but gradually woke up and joined back in.

We couldn’t do much for Laura at this point, it was mostly the drugs helping her now. She was fully dilated and we were just waiting for a bit of her cervix to move out of the way. The nurse decided to let her try pushing because at this point she was miserable and feeling so much pressure. She just wanted to get that baby out! She pushed for THREE HOURS! I was so proud of her! She was so strong and pushed so hard. I was really surprised at how powerful the pushes were. 

The baby however, was just not moving. The nurses and doctor agreed that he was turned just a few degrees too far to the front so the doctor tried to turn him. That didn’t work. Laura was getting really tired again and no progress was being made. That’s when the doctor told Laura that the baby wasn’t coming out this way and that she would need a C-section.

It was so surreal. Laura consented, I think she just knew that it was the only way. Eric fought hard for her, asking if there was another way or if we could do something else. He was so strong for her, it was beautiful to witness. The decision was made. I have never seen a mood in a room change so quickly, it was immediate. Everyone turned quite serious, Laura started to cry a little and her and Eric whispered things to each other. I was on the verge of tears. I just kept thinking “It wasn’t supposed to be like this!”. I told myself I couldn’t cry until they wheeled her away. I just stood back and watched. They got her all prepped and ready. I had no idea where I was supposed to go or what I was supposed to do. I didn’t feel comfortable asking the nurses and doctors because they looked so busy. One of Laura's midwives was there and I asked her what I should do. She said if I waited with their bags then someone would take me to their new room and if I sweet-talked a nurse, I might be able to see the baby right afterwards for a minute or two.

They wheeled her out and the midwife came running back for a point-and-shoot for Eric to take into the operating room. After tearing apart their perfectly organized bag of clothes and such, I found it in Laura’s purse, luckily! They needed a first family picture!

And then I waited. It was about 11:30 at this point. I decided I was too tired and cold to go outside and I didn’t feel like crying anymore. I laid down on the bed/couch and slept for a while. Eventually I made it to their new room. Right as I was settling down with a blanket Eric called me and said I could come see Laura and the baby. We found each other and walked into the post-op room. I went to Laura first and told her congratulations and she just kept saying "look at my baby, he's right over there, that's my son!". I walked over to the little baby crib that he was in and told him hello. His name is Henry Aaron Wheeler and he is beautiful. 

I said my goodbyes, found my way out of the hospital (they are such mazes!) and wearily drove home.

Despite the unexpected parts of Henry's birth story, I realized that I had never felt more powerful as woman than watching and helping Laura through labor. Even in the midst of it, when I would help her through a contraction or tell her "you can do this, you're gonna see your sweet baby today" I felt so fulfilled, so powerful as a woman. I felt confident in my abilities and assured that this is my calling. This is what I want to do with my life. 

I am so thankful, so completely honored, to have been a part of Henry's arrival. I can't express it, I just feel so overwhelmed with gratitude that I got to see that miracle. Because, friends, it truly is a miracle. I have never seen someone work harder than Laura did. I never imagined the bond between husband and wife could be so strong and beautiful. It was such a privilege to see the tenderness and love expressed during Henry's birth. What a gift labor is! And I wasn't even the one having a baby! I'm not the same person I was before I walked into that birth center, I am so thankful for the chance to change my perspectives and for my heart to be shaped by this experience.

xoxo, Kayla

p.s this was my first time taking birth photos! I borrowed a friend's DSLR and read a few tutorials. I think the pictures turned out pretty great. 


  1. This story was so sweet, and really fun to read. I don't even know Laura, and I'm proud of her too. I never realized how much work having a baby was! I'm so glad Henry is home and doing well now!