Category Archives: birth-story

Kaylee’s Arrival: Denouement – What’s in a Name?

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
- Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet

I don’t believe a rose would be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk-cabbage.
- Anne of Green Gables

I believe that names are important. As I have said before, my own name was a prophetic speaking of a truth that I would need to have through out my life. So I go through a lot of baby names before I present a narrowed down list to Jesse. We then discuss meanings, how it flows, nicknames that our kids could potentially get saddled with, and how the name sounds flowing into middle names, and how it will sound when shouted down the street.

A friend told me earlier this week that she loved how both girls’ names flowed so well together and just fit them. This was a huge compliment to me. While I want my children to have unique names, I also want them to be beautiful and flow off the tongue rhythmically, both as a first-middle pair, as well as into our last name. With a three syllable last name and three or four syllable first names, a single syllable middle name works well in the rhythm of speaking. I will quite literally create spreadsheet matrices of first name pairs, trying first names together with middle names. When I find a pair I like, I try it with our last name to see how it flows.

With AJ, we didn’t know what gender she would be, so we had a list of two names (first-middle pairs) of each gender. Aravis Jade was my first choice from the get-go, as I was certain that she was a girl, and I had wanted a girl named “AJ” from the time I was in high school. When she was born, she looked like an Aravis. I looked up at Jesse and asked, “Do we have our AJ?” He nodded, and that was that.

We rolled the unused girl name over to a list of potentials for the next baby, but decided we weren’t as enamored with the boy names. We ended up finding out Otter baby’s gender, and so basically scrapped the boy names and focused on girl names. We added two new names to the list, both designed to use one of our mothers’ middle names.

When she was born, we had no idea what to call her. She didn’t seem to fit any of them very well. In the post-labor haze, I couldn’t remember exactly what Kalliope meant and initially told Jesse she was a Greek goddess, which he wasn’t really that thrilled about.

So, we poked around a bit for some other options, and couldn’t find anything better. We were actually starting to get ready to leave the Birthing Inn without a name. I’ll admit to getting weepy here. After not getting to write AJ’s name on the “baby board”, I really wanted to have a name to give them to write on the board. It wasn’t until we were talking about leaving without it, that I realized how important that little detail was to me.

He then took the time to look up Kalliope to discover its meaning as “beautiful voice”. She is the oldest muse, the muse of epic poetry, song, and dance. She started crying singing as soon as she was pulled out of the water. Which was the polar opposite of AJ, who basically didn’t cry until they started doing her measurements. “Ann” is her paternal grandmother’s middle name, and I added an “e” for Anne of Green Gables. We are calling her “Kaylee” for short, after the mechanic on Firefly.

Since then, Kalliope has continued to be much more vocal than her sister ever was, and we are confident that we have chosen the right name for her.

Kaylee’s Arrival: Part the Second

After spending the whole day Friday on the couch, I went to bed pretty discouraged. Jesse kept trying to encourage me, that he was proud of me for being patient. But I just wanted to be done.

I woke up at 3:00 with some pretty intense contractions. I drank some water & took a bath, trying to get them to calm down. They were pretty close together, so I woke Jesse up around 4 to help me time them. At 4:30, they were staying consistent at 4 minutes apart, lasting 1 minute. I called my mom, to get her out to the house to watch AJ, in case we ended up at the Birthing Inn.

At 5, we had been timing for an hour, so I called Neeva. She informed me that Susan was out of town for the weekend, but since I was going to have Neeva be the primary midwife, I wasn’t worried about it. After discussing where we were at, we decided to meet at the Birthing Inn at 6:30.

I called Kelley, who happened to be at another birth. Since the other mama wasn’t progressing, Kelley decided to come meet us anyway.

We rolled in and got set up, checked my cervix, which was still only at a 6. I started to feel discouraged again, because I had made it to a 7 with AJ before going in to the center. I was also worried that they might send me home again.

Neeva told me that they usually preferred to have their patients come when they’re actually in transition, which I was still a ways from, because it can be discouraging. However, she gave me the option to continue on at the center or to go home for a few more hours. I asked to stay partly because it would have been more discouraging to be sent home and because I knew Jesse would be distracted by all the projects that needed to be done at home. I knew that I was going to need his full attention to make it through.

The time line gets rather wibbly wobbly after that point. The rest of the morning is a haze of comings and goings, alternating between resting and walking, in the tub and out of the tub. At one point, we took a couple walks around the back lawn.

Somewhere around the afternoon, I moved into transition. I’m not sure anyone knows when it actually happened, I vaguely remember Neeva saying something about me reaching an 8 and nobody knew.

A few other stand out memories are of Neeva continuing to remark about how quiet I am in labor. A couple of times it made me laugh, which was both distracting and painful. But amusing nonetheless. I did try to warn her, but I understand not believing a woman who tells you that she sometimes can’t actually tell she’s having a contraction. It is true though.

I also have distinct memories of Kelley and Mom praying in the Spirit, which was absolutely beautiful and wonderful.

Music is one of the ways I deal with pain, so I had an all female play list prepared, which played during the entirety of the labor process. During which two songs came on that completely ushered in the presence of God.

Other than that, it’s a haze of pain and work. Towards the end, as she was crowning, I felt my blood sugar dropping and realized that I hadn’t had enough to eat that day. I knew that if I didn’t get her out soon, my body might not have enough energy to finish. It was at that time that I had a stern conversation with myself. I knew I wasn’t using the contractions to the full extent. I would get a couple of good pushes in, and then the pain would build in my back and break my concentration. So I told myself that I needed to just push through a couple of those, and she would come out, and it would be over.

After that I found my rhythm, and I think it was only a handful of contractions before her little head slipped out. I think I may have started crying then, because I knew the hard work was over and she was here.

When they pulled her out of the water, she started crying immediately. They put her on my chest and I looked up to see Jesse crying over my shoulder, just like he did with AJ. I am so grateful to have such a tender daddy for my girls.

Since none of us could remember the song that was playing when AJ was born, Jesse and I had talked about making sure we appointed someone to pay attention to that, but, of course, we forgot. Fortunately, Kelley remembered what it was.

So I will leave you with her song, and talk about the naming process later.

Kaylee’s Arrival: Part the First

In order to understand the full impact of Kaylee’s birth story, it will be necessary for you to know how things went with AJ. (For the morbidly curious, you may also wish to view the photos, Daddy’s version of the story, and Auntie Kari’s version.)

I find this birth story just as difficult to write about as the last. Which is odd, considering that things went completely differently and pretty much exactly as I wanted.

Let’s rewind to my 36 week check up… As I found myself approaching full-term, I became increasingly nervous about the stall-out from AJ’s labor. I talked to my midwife, Susan, and the student midwife, Neeva (who would be my primary delivering midwife), through the AJ’s birth story. We discussed exactly when the stall had happened and what the previous midwife had done. They reassured me that if a stall did occur, they would just tuck me into bed and have me get some more rest. I left that appointment much encouraged and relieved.

Up until the contractions started. On July 2nd. Two days before the date we were pretty sure she would be coming, and nine days before our due date. I decided to have them check my cervix (3cm at 50% effaced) at my 39 week appointment on the 3rd, and we talked about what they wanted me to do. I had been trying to alternatively walk (to keep the contractions going) and rest, since I didn’t want to wear myself out. They asked me to rest and be patient, true labor doesn’t stop when it decides to start. They told me that the location of my placenta was causing my uterus to be irritable, which basically means that anytime Otter moved around in there, it would kick up a round of contractions.

I went home and tried to rest as much as possible. When nothing really happened, we decided to go out to my parents’ house for the 4th. Around 730, the contractions picked back up again. I tried a few things to get them to slow down, but they continued to get stronger and closer together. I had Jesse call the midwife, since the contractions were getting to the point where I didn’t want to talk through them. We decided to meet them at the Birthing Inn to see where things were at. My doula, Kelley, met us there in case this was the real deal.

I had progressed slightly (to 4 cm) but definitely not in active labor as of yet. So home we went. Again. I cried myself to sleep that night. Friday (the 5th) I spent pretty much parked on the couch. I was so frustrated. I hadn’t wanted to do the three days of contracting again. I also found myself very untrustful of my body. If I couldn’t count on my contractions to tell me when I was in labor, how was I supposed to know? I cried quite a bit that day, as well as was just generally grumpy. Jesse and I went out for breakfast, since both of us were pretty grumpy. Not with each other, thankfully, but at life and the whole situation.

Birth Story by #awesomeauntie Kari

Guest post by Auntie Kari

Doodle by Auntie Kari while writing her birth story:

How does one put into words the wide range of thoughts and emotions wrapped around the addition of a precious little one? I was asked to, so I will try my best.

September: I guess this story starts the night they told us. We were having a family dinner at the house. Angela and Peter were visiting from Rhode Island. We were probably eating Mexican food. Conversation topics were all over the place. Angie and Peter’s wedding, school since they were both in school, Angie in art and Peter in medical. Peter was telling us about how his residency was going and his plans for what he was doing after. He and mom were talking about family practice and something was said about OB/GYN. Amy said, “Speaking of OB/GYNs… we’re pregnant.” There was a moment of shocked silence followed by murmers, elations and congratulations. I didn’t know quite what to think. It was very weird to think my sister is going to have a baby. For the longest time, I had to remind myself she was pregnant. Oh yeah, Amy’s having a baby. Then she started showing and getting rounder and rounder. Her baby bump was so cute! The first time I felt Panda kick was amazing. To feel life before I could see it made my heart so full of happiness. I already loved this little one. Auntie couldn’t wait to meet this precious life.

Mother’s day: We were all going to meet at Jasmine Mongolian grill for a Mother’s Day lunch. I was getting myself ready for the day, hair, make up, when Mom comes in my room and tells me Amy has gone into pre labor. I pause what I’m doing (putting foundation on, I think), look up with a semi blank stare and say “What does that mean?” After a short explanation I realize that Panda was coming soon. Like within the week, but mostly likely early in the week. Yeah, I started freaking out. I needed to pack an overnight bag. I started running around like a crazy woman. Trying to finish my make-up, pack, do my hair, and pack some more. My heart rate had gone through the roof. Reality finally sank in. My sister is having a baby!! I’m going to be an auntie. That’s so weird!

So the rest of Sunday….. Nothing.

Go to work Monday… Still nothing.

I really needed Panda to be born today because one of my coworkers had something on Tuesday so she couldn’t be there the whole day.

Go to work Tuesday… Open the doors at 6:30am, first kids come at 6:45am and the phone rings at 7:30ish. It’s Mom. Amy’s entered active labor and is heading to the Birthing Inn. Mom is getting herself together to head out. I instantly start freaking out internally. I’m at work, I’m in charge and I can only get part of the day covered. I call my coworkers to put them on alert. Mom calls again about 8:30 to tell me Amy is dilating quickly and that I should get there soon. My coworkers can’t get there until about 9. I prayed that I would be able to be there for the birth of my niece or nephew. As soon as my coworkers arrived, it was go time! This baby has until 1pm to come. Luckily work isn’t that far from the Inn, so I was there in less than 10 minutes, ready to cheer my sister and the baby on.

I’ve never been this close to anyone having a baby before so the experience was quite new. I have heard many stories of pregnancies and births, but never had it been this close to home. All the experiences were new, including The Birthing Inn. I’ve visited people after they’ve had babies so the atmosphere at the Inn was shocking (in a good way). It was nothing like I had seen. The room Amy was in looked like a bedroom with a big tub in it. A queen size bed, a night stand, an armoire. The weather decided to be sunny so light was coming in through the window. It was so cozy. It was relaxing, except for the pounding of my heart due to the excitement that had to be contained. I was so excited I could hardly contain it. I wanted to dance all around telling everyone I was going to be an auntie!! But per request of the parents to be, the birth was to be kept off all social networks till after Panda was born. So I kept my mouth, and thumbs, quiet while I danced in my heart and mind.

And then the waiting game began. Waiting for the baby, waiting for the next contraction, waiting for family to arrive, waiting for more contractions. Getting water, walking the halls, sitting in the tub (Amy did, not me), following different suggestions by the midwife to get labor progressing. Amy wasn’t really feeling the contractions when she was sitting or lying down. All the while my anxiety level is taking over my excitement. The clock is ticking and I had to go back to work at 12:45. I was praying and trying to hold back the torrent of emotions and tears. Time kept creeping closer to the time I had to leave but Panda still hadn’t arrived. I hurriedly gave kisses and headed back to a place I really didn’t want to be. As soon as I got in the car, the storm of my pent up emotions let loose. I started bawling and crying out to God. I wanted to be there for my sister. We had shared so much of life together. We had been there for each other through thick, thin, joys, sorrows, laughter and heartache. And now I was missing the biggest event so far.

During this time, we were on a Daniel Fast and my human emotional distress cravings couldn’t be satisfied with dark chocolate or a caramel macchiato. I composed myself a few blocks from work and prepared myself to be there. The kids were all sleeping so it was calm as I sat, tried to eat something and deal with the turmoil I was feeling.

Mom texted me a little after 2pm letting me know they were transferring Amy to St. Joseph’s hospital since labor had pretty much halted. I was bummed because I knew that is not what she and Jesse wanted. I knew she was going to be disappointed. Our ratio was scheduled to go down at about 3:30pm. I had all my things packed so when our numbers dropped, I could rush out. The kid’s pick up was earlier than scheduled, so at 3pm I was off to the hospital, which was only a few blocks from work. I frantically tried to get a hold of Mom or Dad so I knew where to go. After several tries I reached someone in the know, parked, and tried not to run into the hospital. When I reached the floor where Amy was, the waiting game continued. Waiting for some medical consent so they could give her Pitocin, waiting in the room, waiting in the lobby. By this time Amy had been in labor since Sunday morning and in active labor for over 9 hours. She was exhausted. As the medication kicked in and her contractions started with more intensity, her physical and mental exhaustion were very evident. She was shaking uncontrollably and couldn’t keep warm. I watched the contractions come on intense and watch my sister try to handle it. It was really hard to watch. For once there was nothing physically I could do for her. I couldn’t carry any of the pain or the intensity. All I could do was sit there and pray. And pray I did. Hard. For renewed strength to come and satisfying rest in between contractions. The midwife came over and asked Mom if she thought Amy would be open to having an epidural. It would give her the opportunity to sleep and get some strength back so she could push this baby out. We the left the room so they could discuss the option and make a decision. She decided to go ahead with an epidural so more waiting began. Waiting for the doctor, waiting for her to sleep. Waiting, waiting. Sitting in the waiting area, playing random games on my phone, reading, sharing the one phone charger we had, walking around, eating, more sitting, more waiting.

After her nap and Jesse grabbed a bite to eat, she rested for about 15 more minutes, then push time! I texted dad, who was in the lobby, “We are getting ready to push!” and he answered with “Ok we are pulling!” It was really weird not knowing what to do. Mom and Jesse had her legs while the midwife and nurse were coaching and monitoring her. I stood by her head and with each push just stroked her head and prayed over her, labor and the baby.

Really, there are no words to describe the feeling when Panda’s head crowned, then came shooting out with one arm overhead, like superman. And the moment I realized I had a niece! WOW! I wanted to cry, laugh, jump, dance, shout it out and sit quiet to take it in all at the same time. They placed her up on Amy’s tummy and started rubbing her down. Her eyes were side open, taking it all in. I ran down the hall to announce to Papa Jeff, Grandma Sallee, Aunt Caryl and Uncle Jon, “IT’S A GIRL!!!!”

Birth Story (Jesse’s Version)

I had been planning to fix my Epiphone Les Paul for a while. I was finally doing it now that I wanted to sell it, which struck me as a pretty ironic thing. It’s like when people upgrade the kitchen to sell a house; it would have been a good idea to do so 10 years prior, when they could have enjoyed it. In any case, I had found the connection that was causing the pickups not to work, and was just finishing it up when Amy walked out at midnight on Saturday May 7 and said she was taking a bath because she was cold. Strong contractions were kicking in. We sat for a while, first in the bath and then the kitchen. We waited out the contractions together. One of the hardest things was not to ask if she was ok when the more intense ones hit, because I could see how much of a physical toll it was taking. It wasn’t as painful or difficult for me at that point, because I knew there wasn’t much to do except to ride out the wave, but asking “how are you doing?” was so automatic. I made a mental note to not do that when the real birth started.

We went to bed and slept in a bit, missing Phoebe’s baby dedication (but confident that the Wetzels would understand). As we started to get ready to meet Amy’s family for a mother’s day lunch, Amy lost her mucus plug, signalling that things actually were progressing. We thought that more progress would be forthcoming after we had lunch at Jasmine and walked around for a while. The contractions never fizzled out, but simply didn’t progress beyond random intervals without any consistency or uptick in intensity. We took a walk at the Tacoma nature preserve near Cheney Stadium, hoping that things would progress further, but didn’t see much change. Finally, we had dinner at Famous Dave’s. Our waitress said she had 3 women go into labor at her table so hopefully today would be our lucky day. Though it wasn’t, the food was delicious as always.

Throughout the weekend, we talked about Panda and how excited we were to meet her. I felt totally overwhelmed a few times but overall I was just excited about the prospect of finally getting to see and hold our baby. I couldn’t understand the experience of loving someone without having met them. I felt the weight of love and responsibility in being her father. I’ve pondered, too, what it would be like to have a boy, since I had always thought of Panda as a girl. The anticipation was tiring, and I kept hoping that things would kick into gear. By the time we finally got to bed, I fully expected Amy to wake me up in the morning on Monday and be heading in to the Birthing Inn.

When I woke up late at 6am, nothing had really changed; Amy was still having contractions but no significant increase in consistency. I decided to head in to work, since there didn’t seem to be any imminent indicatiors. Mom called me expectantly, providing Dad’s cell number and her extension at the school for the day so we could let her know when we would be going in. Amy made an appointment with the midwife for an exam. I fully expected to get a call after her appointment that I would need to leave for home, that she was at 5 cm and counting and there wasn’t much time to spare. However, I didn’t get that call. Amy was dilated between 1-2 cm, which meant that things were definitely moving and we were going to have the baby very soon, but there wasn’t really any rush to come home. In fact, she said, it was possible that it would still be a few days. I was a little disappointed. The waiting, I think, was the hardest thing; the continual state of alert is a strange place to be. “Hurry up and wait” is the phrase that probably best describes the experience. Grabbing the phone every time a message came in, only to have it be an email about random things that I couldn’t care less about at the moment, was fatiguing in a strange way.

Amy woke me up at 3:30am the next morning. She had been having strong contractions since midnight, she said, and had timed an hour’s worth of contractions that were about 4 minutes apart. I got up with her while she took a bath and timed again for a while. We started to get down into the sub-3-minute range and called the midwife. She asked Amy some questions and recommended that we wait a little longer. We slept for a bit. Amy got up to use the bathroom a couple of times and noticed a flow of blood that concerned us a bit. She called the midwife back and we planned to come in to Pearl Place for another checkup. While Amy was changing in the room before Kim, the midwife on call, got to the room, her water broke suddenly. Kim checked her cervix and Amy had made it to 7 cm before getting into the office. By the time we got settled down at the Birthing Inn, Amy had gotten to 9 cm and we thought we would have Panda by noon. Amy decided to get into the tub to get ready, hoping we could do a water birth, and I got in with her. As soon as we did, the contractions stopped completely. Full stop.

Over the next four hours we did everything we could think of to get the contractions going again: nipple stimulation, walking, lunges, stairs, ball, etc. Nothing we did got more than about one contraction every half-hour. After four hours or so, Kim told us that since nothing was progressing, we were going to need to transfer to St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma. Probably, she said, Amy’s uterus was just worn out after having contractions for 3 days and couldn’t get the rest of the way without some help. She left Amy and I together for a bit by ourselves. We cried about the birth we had hoped for and weren’t going to get to have. I told Amy how proud I was of her, that this wasn’t a failure on her part, and that we were still going to have Panda; we just weren’t going to have her there. I was so impressed with Amy’s strength in that moment as I watched her grieve the loss of what she had wanted so much and then wipe the tears away to get ready to transfer.

We drove over to the hospital and were able to laugh a bit. Emergency parking was full, and we excoriated the hospital for their lack of vision. Eventually someone left and we were able to snag the space (she was dressed in scrubs, and I’m fairly sure that employees aren’t supposed to park in emergency, so I didn’t feel too bad about taking it). We went in, did paperwork, wheeled Amy up to the 14th floor, and got settled in to the room. It was…a hospital room. There were machines. It was beige. There was a big oval window, one of the distinguishing features of St. Joseph’s at least from the outside, but the rest of the room was a fairly typical hospital room. It seemed to take forever for things to get going. We had to wait for Kim to get out of surgery to get the petosin started because we hadn’t signed something or other (I wasn’t really clear on what it was and I didn’t much care at that point; I just wanted to get our baby out and for Amy and I to get some rest).

Eventually Jennifer, our nurse, did start the petosin, and the contractions kicked in. And they were brutal. Amy was shaking uncontrollably every time one of them hit. Amy had been awake at that point for most of 17 hours, and her body wasn’t able to cope with the additional stress. Kim eventually suggested that we consider an epidural; that way Amy could get some sleep and hopefully gather the strength to push. She left us together for a while to consider it. Amy asked me what I thought we should do. I said I didn’t know. This was something we had hoped we would be able to avoid. As we were talking she had another contraction, and I wasn’t sure I could take it. I was afraid of what could happen to her, if the doctor missed and nicked her spinal cord, or if the epidural didn’t wear off, or any number of things; but the contractions induced by the petosin were so bad that she wasn’t going to be able to push through them either. My decision making ability was completely shot by then, and so I prayed, asking God for an answer as to what to do. I felt that his answer was that we needed to do it, to get this done. Amy said she didn’t disagree, so we let Kim know that we had decided to do the epidural.

Dr. Chen came in, and began explaining all the things he had to about the risks, benefits, what he was going to do, etc. I knew he had to go over all of it, but I desperately wanted him to stop talking and get the thing done. He had Amy lean over me, hunched so he could find the spaces in between the vertebrae to insert the anesthetic. While he was working, Amy had the worst contraction she had had so far. She was shaking, and I heard her stop breathing regularly and start to gasp, interspersed with sounds of pain, and I started to breathe regularly as loudly as I could. I didn’t think words would help her at that point, but I wanted to try to get her back to breathing through it. She heard me and began breathing again. Once the contraction had subsided, Dr. Chen finished and she was falling asleep before he left the room. I said I was going to go for a bit, to get out of the room for a change of scenery. Amy was already falling asleep, bit nodded and whispered “thank you”. I wasn’t sure if she meant for breathing with her, or for making the decision on the epidural, but I started to cry again. I was exhausted, physically and emotionally, from having her lean on me. The position I had been curled in to support her had taken a toll on my legs and my back, but I needed to move more than I needed to sit.

I went down to the cafeteria with Amy’s dad, and continued crying. I sort of laughed about it, because I wasn’t sure why I was crying. I was just mostly tired. We ate briefly, walked outside for a bit, and then went back up to the birthing floor. By then, Kim had returned, Mom and Kari were there, and Kim said that it was time to push. I held one of Amy’s legs and Mom held the other. Kari stood near her head. We waited for the contractions, and Amy pushed through them, one at a time. I could see Panda’s head starting to move through the birth canal and looking for egress. It was strange, I thought, that this wasn’t nearly as traumatizing as I thought it would be to watch Amy birth our baby. It was beautiful.

Finally, Amy pushed once more, and Panda was out, her left arm coming through along with her head. She cried almost immediately, strong, no cord around any part of her, completely free and open. I could see immediately that she was a girl; we had been right about her. They set her on Amy so she could see her, and I cried again. She was beautiful. Her face, which I had expected to be a bit squished from the journey, was fine; her eyes were open and taking in the world around her; her hands, feet, ears, everything was perfect. Even her head wasn’t strangely shaped, as our birthing classes had warned us might happen from the shifting of the plates in the skull during birth.

We named her Aravis Jade after the heroine of The Horse and His Boy, the fifth book in the Chronicles of Narnia. I couldn’t believe she was ours, and that she was here. She cried quite a bit in the first few hours, which was understandable given that she had been thrust from the warmth and safety of Amy’s womb into the cold air of a hospital room. I sang to her, anything I could think of (I remember specifically Blue Jean Blues by ZZ Top and The Longest Time by Billy Joel), and she seemed to enjoy it, or at least was interested in the sound. She was awake for hours watching and listening. I almost couldn’t believe that all the months of preparation had culminated in that moment, holding my daughter, seeing my bride smile at us. It was transcendent. It was mystical. It was miraculous.

Birth Story: The Long Slow Build and Next Best Things

When we found out that my mom’s babies were all right on time or a few days early, Jesse & I joked about having a May Day baby. “Wouldn’t it be cool to have the first baby on the board at the Birthing Inn?” When the contractions hit hard around 11.30 PM on April 30th, I thought that we might just have our May Day baby. I decided not to wake Jesse up unless the contractions got closer together.

I sat on the birthing ball we had borrowed from some friends of ours for a while, but every time a contraction hit that I had to breathe through, I would shiver uncontrollably. I just couldn’t get warm. I remembered reading or hearing something about water helping with back labor and, since most of my contractions were in my back, I decided to draw a hot bath. It did ease the pain and it helped me get warm. Once I had stopped shivering long enough to think, I started to worry that there was something wrong.

I got out of the tub to try to do some research in my awesome book from the Mayo Clinic. I started shivering again almost instantly. I managed to flip through a few chapters, but I couldn’t find anything. I finally shivered my way to the bedroom to wake Jesse up to come look for me. He was very groggy but managed to stumble back across the house with me as I got back in the warm water to get the shivering under control.

He couldn’t find anything. Not in the book. Not online. I decided to call the midwife just to be sure that nothing was wrong. I felt bad waking her up (it was now 2.30 or so in the morning of May 1st), but I wanted to make sure that we didn’t need to go to the hospital for some kind of monitoring.

She was baffled. She’d never heard of anything like this. She said that as long as I wasn’t running a fever or feeling nauseaus, we were probably fine. She advised me to try to get some more sleep.

I had Jesse pile more blankets on the bed & crawled into bed with my cat. There’s no better heater than a purring cat. At least I think so.

I woke up in the morning and the contractions had completely fizzled out. Sigh. I guess I’m not getting a May Day baby after all. Which, to a certain extent, I was actually fine with, I had packed that Saturday full and wasn’t sure I wanted to try to do all of that while dealing with back labor.

Fast forward to 12 AM Mother’s Day (May 8). I had been sleeping and was woken up by more back labor. Jesse was still up working on his guitar (it’s a long story, you’d have to ask him). I came out to the kitchen and asked for water. That’s the first thing the midwives ask, so I wanted to make sure I had two bottles down before I called or anything. Jesse was watching me breathe and shiver and he said, “I think this is it. I think we’re going to have our baby.”

These contractions didn’t feel any different than the last set, so I was decidedly not as optimistic. I decided to get in the tub again. It’s a little hazy, but I think I took two baths through the course of the night and drank lots of water. Since the contractions never settled down into a pattern or got closer together than about 10 minutes, we decided to go back to bed. Somewhere in here I lost my mucous plug & decided to call first thing Monday morning to get an appointment to get my cervix checked.

I woke up still having contractions about 10 to 20 minutes apart. We decided to skip church to get some extra sleep and finally got ourselves up to meet my family for Mother’s Day lunch at our favorite Mongolian grill. We laughed with my mom about how surreal it would be to have a baby on Mother’s day.

We came back home & took a nap. We figured if we were in labor, it would be best to sleep as much as we could. When we woke up, I wanted to take a walk “in nature” for Mother’s Day. Start a tradition, baby or no baby. We looked online & discovered that our metro parks system maintains several nature parks within the city limits. We decided to go check out Snake Lake Nature Reserve. The Nature Center was closed for the weekend, but the trails were open. We walked for almost a mile. By the end of the mile, my contractions were dropping down under 10 minutes apart.

We decided to go get some BBQ (spicy food) to try to keep things going. When we got to the restaraunt, we were informed by our waitress that she was the only one who had 2 other people go into labor at her table. We gave each other a high-five.

By the time dinner was over, the contractions had settled back down so we went home & went to bed.

On Monday morning (May 9), I emailed my colleagues saying that I wasn’t feeling well and would stay home. Since I still wasn’t sure if these contractions were going to settle into a pattern, I didn’t want everyone getting all excited for nothing. I emailed my boss directly and informed him that I thought we were in early labor and I may not make it in again.

I called the clinic and requested a cervical check. My mom’s contractions never got steady with her first pregnancy (me), I wanted to get checked and make sure we knew where we were at. As I was getting ready for my appointment, I was thinking, I don’t even care if it’s much, I’ll be happy if we’re at 1 cm.

My mom decided to come take me to my appointment in case the cervical check triggered actual active labor.

2 cm and cervix “soft like butter”, ready for lots of changes.

I rescheduled my weekly appointment for the next week, went home, and went to bed.

I slept off and on all day.

I was awakened at around 3 in the morning (May 10) with more strong back contractions, accompanied by that blasted shivering. I drew a bath & pulled up my contraction timer app, since it felt like these were closer together.

I timed six contractions at less that 4 minutes apart.

Ok, now we’re getting somewhere.

I woke Jesse up saying, “I just timed six contractions at less than 4 minutes apart.”

He sprang out of bed sputtering. And followed me back to the tub so I could get warm.

We timed an hour of contractions and called the midwife at around 430 in the morning. She said that since this was the first, she wanted us to wait a little bit longer and call again. We went back to bed and I got some more sleep in between contractions.

We were just getting back up and getting ready to start timing the contractions again when I had a bloody show.

We called the midwife again, and she decided to have us meet the next midwife on call (there’s a group of them, and I had met all of them before this point) at the clinic at 8.

I showered and we loaded up our “to go” bag in the car & headed to clinic.

While I was in the changing room getting ready for my cervical check, I felt a warm trickle run down my leg. What the hell? I don’t think I peed. Holy crap. I think my water just broke. “Um, honey? I think my water just broke.”

Chuckle. “What? Are you serious?”

Then the midwife, Kim Horvath, came in & I heard him tell her. She laughed too. “Well, I guess you’re having a baby today.”

I got myself sort of cleaned up & got back up on the chair.

7 cm, which apparently is pretty good, since Kim and the nurses were impressed that I’d made it that long.

We headed down the hall for fetal monitoring while Kim & the birthing assistants, Melissa and Susan, got the room set up downstairs.

The sensation of the amniotic fluid leaking was absolutely disgusting. Every move I made caused more of it to gush out. I think I said “Ew” or “Gross” about a hundred times before we got settled into our birthing room. I changed into my labor dress and got up on the bed.

Since I’m Group B Strep positive, the first order of business was to get an IV in. It took Kim a couple of tries to get the needle in, but that’s never really bothered me, so I just waited. The tape really bugged me, but that was about it.

I labored for a couple of hours, on the bed, on the birthing ball, and walked a little. I was still shivering pretty badly so Melissa threw some blankets in the dryer and brought them out for me. They were heavenly.

Sometime around 10.30, Kim checked me again and I had dialated to 9 cm. They started filling the birthing tub & pulled all the baby equipment out. I had another costume change to get in the water. Jesse got his trunks on and got in with me.

The warm water felt absolutely amazing. We were so excited. We were going to be holding Panda by noon for sure.

A half an hour later, Kim came in and I had stalled out at 9 cm. I was crushed.

I climbed back out of the tub and changed back into my other labor clothes to start walking. I walked the halls. I lunged up and down the stairs. I sat on the birthing ball and rocked.

We couldn’t get the contractions to come any more than once every half hour. My legs were so sore and from all the shivering that it was getting hard to walk up the stairs.

Kim let me go for 3 or 4 hours, and then she said the words I had hoped wouldn’t come. “I think we need to transfer you to the hospital. Your uterus has been contracting basically for three days. I think it’s just decided to give up.”

We cried. Actually, I sobbed, and Jesse held and cried with me. It was so devestating to make it all the way to 9 cm and not be able to finish it out. Panda wasn’t going to get her name on the board at all. The credit for the birth would all go to St. Joe’s. This wasn’t what I wanted.

“Please,” I prayed. “Don’t let them give me a Cesarian.”

Since it had been several hours, Kim gave me the next dose of antibiotics before we packed up and left.

We got settled into our new room at the hospital with all the monitors and the horrid hospital gown. They wouldn’t let me wear my labor dress.

I sat in the bed and sniffled while they hooked up fluids and the Pitocin to my IV.

In the interest of keeping this PG, I won’t share the words that went through my head when the Pitocin hit my system. But if anyone has ever told you that it’s evil, they’re right.

Those contractions sent my shivers through the roof. I’m sure it looked like I was having a seziure every time one hit. As the got closer together, Kim came back in to the room and watched me shake.

She talked to my mom and decided to recommend an epidural. I had basically been up for 17 hours and shivering for most of that. She didn’t think I would physically have the strength to push. If I got an epidural, I would be at least be able to sleep for a little while.

Jesse and I attempted to talk about it, but I was in so much pain and so tired, I just didn’t care anymore. He asked a few questions (which I very much appreciated) and then looked at me. I asked him what he thought we should do and he broke down and cried. Watching me shake like that tore him up emotionally. He prayed about it and felt like we should go ahead with it.

The anesthesiologist came in and started running through his disclaimers. At that point, we both just wanted him to shut up and stick the needle in. They brought Jesse around in front of me on the side of the bed so I could lean on him while the Dr was looking for the right spot.

Several more contractions hit before the epidural kicked in. The last one I felt was the only one that pushed me over the edge and left me completely out of control. Jesse heard me starting to groan and lose control of my breathing. He started regulating his breathing, which was the most helpful thing he could have done at the time. It pulled me out of the pain and helped me to regulate mine.

I started falling asleep before the Dr left the room. I was finally warm. And so tired.

They let me sleep for about half an hour. Then Kim came back in and said it was time to push. It was time to get excited again.

We pushed for 45 minutes and out she came. Jesse’s voice cracked, “It’s a girl.” I looked over to see tears streaming down his face. And then I saw her. And she was beautiful. And purple.

I got a good look at her face and all of her features were just perfect. A full head of dark hair. She had big beautiful dark eyes. A little button nose. The tiniest little fingers. And her mouth. Round. Red. Rosebud lips. Just perfect.
After the cord finished pulsing, they clamped it off and Jesse cut the last physical link between us. She was now her own person. This little life that I had carried for nearly 40 weeks was on her own. It was a spiritual moment.

Then they asked the name. I looked at her & then her daddy and asked:

“What do you think? Do we have our AJ?”

The tears renewed and he nodded.

“Can you do it?”

He shook his head.

I took a deep breath to steady my voice. “Aravis. Aravis Jade.”

Aravis Jade Carrigan was born on Tuesday, May 10, 2011 at 7.59 PM during the sunset. She was 6 lbs 10 oz and 19.5 in.

She’s ours. And she’s here.