"Why do people say "grow some balls?" Balls are weak and sensitive. If you wanna be tough, grow a vagina. Those things can take a pounding." -Sheng Wang
Ever since my birth experience with Van, I have had a few friends comment to me that they are interested in having a child without medications but feel overwhelmed about the possibility. While I do my best to reassure my fellow mamas and mamas-to-be that each woman is capable of far more than she realizes, I know that the prospect of having a natural birth can be daunting. Even as it was happening to me, I repeatedly wondered, "Can I do this? Am I strong enough?" The answer to both of those questions is yes, but I just have to re-center my mind sometimes. The truth is that, even though I thought I couldn't do it with my first two children and I eventually had epidurals, if my doctor had gotten in my face and told me that an epidural would have killed my baby and I'd have to do it naturally, of course I would have done it. This isn't to say that epidurals kill babies; rather, I'm just using a hypothetical example to show that if I had been given no choice, I could have done it.
I started thinking that perhaps this blog could occasionally be used for such encouragement, and so my friend Keri volunteered to share her birth story with Callen, whom she birthed without medications. You have met Keri before as the fabulous lady who donated breast milk with me in honor of Aiden Smith, and also the CEO of Mama Kneads Massage.
If you're a mama who birthed your child without medications and would like to write up your story in a guest post to share with others, please contact me or leave a comment below! I welcome woman-to-woman encouragement, as I believe that building each other up is essential. We are stronger, more skilled, and happier as we connect with one another and rely on others for support. So let me delay no further--here is the story of the birth of Callen Jay Kelley in the words of Keri:
Jennifer arrived at the hospital just as we were making our way to the birthing suite to get settled. We started an IV with antibiotics to help protect the baby from Strep B around 2:15 pm. Since I'm allergic to penicillin, I was given vancomycin that runs on a 12 hr cycle so I was set to get a second dose much later if my labor lasted that long; we didn't think it would since I was progressing so easily. Within minutes of receiving the antibiotic, my scalp was itching like crazy and as the hour/drip went on, the itching moved to my belly, back, and sides. Phil put a cold cloth on my skin to help relieve the itching. It turns out that the strain of Strep B I had is only treatable with Pen and Vanco.
To help my labor progress, Jennifer rubbed my legs. She also told Phil how to help by rubbing pressure points on my hands and ears. The three of us walked the Sky Walk of the hospital and chatted. I felt like I was in a dream because everything indicated labor but I was totally not in any discomfort. I just felt really excited. All of our family had arrived by this time. At 5 pm, we did nipple stimulation using a pump for an hour and a half to help the contractions along. Just after 6:30 pm, Dawn did a membrane sweep. She also did a check and said I was dilated to an 8. We took another walk and added squats this time.
As the evening passed by, Dawn suggested that we break my water to really get things going since we were on a time crunch to avoid another dose of meds that my body would likely have a more severe reaction to if given a second dose. I was hesitant to make this decision but Jennifer has worked with Dawn before and assured me that this wasn't a normal practice for Dawn. I asked that we wait another hour (til 9 pm) and then we could do it. We were hopeful that breaking the water would really send me into pushing. Dawn was patient with me waiting to make sure I felt comfortable with the decision.
At 9:15 pm, Dawn broke my water. The gush of water grossed me out. I know the contractions got stronger because this kicked off the hours of Jennifer and Phil helping me through. My mom and my cousin Mandy also came in to help Phil and Jennifer put pressure on my hips. At some points, I could see everyone watching the contraction monitor and they'd ask if I felt anything...I wouldn't typically feel much at certain phases. Contractions were coming close together too...like a minute and a half apart. But I do remember being zoned out at times too while I had my hips and back pushed on. I'd give a cue and say "Okay, one is coming now" and they'd squeeze while I sat on the ball and leaned onto the bed. I know that I threw up once but I'm not sure what time that was. From what I had read, that was a good sign that the baby would come soon. Jennifer told me the same thing.
Somewhere during the contractions, we were using the breast pump again. Dawn said this was a first. Another funny thing that happened that I forgot was Dawn missing her rolling chair. My eyes were closed but I heard all of the laughter and could only imagine! A nurse counted to ten for me during the pushing stages - I remember telling her to count louder because I wasn't hearing the last few counts (probably because I was drowning her out with all my grunting!).
Well, the night was wearing on and my deadline for antibiotics was closing in. At this time (maybe 2 am?), Dawn mentioned pitocin. I was really hesitant to go there. Afraid that I wouldn't be able to handle a more intense pain that I had heard comes with pitocin induced labors and that I'd have to cave in to all of the interventions that I was set on avoiding. Again, I bargained for a bit more time while I made certain I was comfortable with the decision and tried to ramp myself up to really work at pushing. Jennifer was a sounding board again as she assured me that Dawn would never go there unless she thought it would help in this situation. I agreed to start pitocin but asked for the lowest dose. I think it was started around 2:30 am at the lowest dosage and was only increased once. Sure enough, pushing was closer together now. Before, my contractions had slowed to about 7 minutes apart so any pushing I was doing wasn't working the baby down, down, down. I'd push him down and he'd move back up during my resting stages. So, I think we tried almost every position possible for pushing. I laid on my side in the bed, I squatted at the foot of the bed hanging from a towel wrapped around a roll bar attached to the bed, I sat on the toilet, I sat on the ball and would squat when needed, I hung over the top of the bed with my knees in the bend of the bed. It was crazy. I was trying so hard. I was getting discouraged and asking my team for anything I could do or try to succeed. I felt like there must be something I could do better even though I was pulling stuff out of my mind from the books I had read about keeping my face and jaw relaxed, even sticking my tongue out! Phil probably thought I was having a seizure. He was so supportive of every crazy-sounding decision I made regarding pregnancy, birth options and postpartum stuff. He really endured the night's challenges right beside me. He said it was really tough seeing me go through the pushing parts. He also said he was able to see the baby's head for several hours before we had delivery. I will add that the baby was showing no signs of distress through the whole night. We opted against the second dose of Vanco even though our 12 hour mark had passed.
Dawn and Jennifer suggested I try the toilet again as that was where I seemed to make the most progress. I was freaked out about that option and asked what the plan was if the baby did indeed come there...just who was going to dive in and catch it?! Dawn assured me that she would check the baby and move me out of there before that happened. And that's exactly how it went! I got him down further, we moved to the bed and Phil thinks I pushed for about another hour laying on my side. I was able to feel his head and this gave me a boost of motivation and keep going. I know Dawn offered for me to feel once more but I remember thinking I didn't want to lose focus so I declined. My mind was somewhere else in space so I couldn't chance bringing myself back to reality just yet--I was so close to my goal. And I guess it's unusual but he came out sideways/transverse? His little (or might I say big) head was turned toward his shoulder. Phil said he just kept coming and coming and coming...all 22 inches. He weighed 8 lb 7 oz and was completely perfect. We delayed cord clamping and he was placed directly on my stomach. Moments later, I announced "It's a boy!" loud enough to let the family waiting across the hall to hear. I cut the cord and we all breathed a sigh of relief for having him here. I was so exhausted but proud for not having ever given up, not asking for pain meds and not feeling like I couldn't do it. Yes, I questioned whether I could do it "fast enough" but really remained strong and determined. I had a first degree tear and got a few stitches--this heals fast and while I felt some "ring of fire," I did not feel a tear. He was born at 6:09 am on July 1st, 2012. So, while I skipped early labor and active labor was a breeze, the hard labor lasted from 10 pm to 6 am making 8 hours.
I'm sharing my story so that anyone who thinks they want to experience labor this way but don't know what to expect or who to ask, know that it can be done! Know that your body is fearfully and wonderfully made in a way that is perfect for the child God gives you. I don't judge other options but wish more women believed in themselves just enough to consider the old-fashioned way that our grandmas know and their grandmas and so on. That's our birth story of Callen Jay Kelley.