Birth Story of Landon Harkema

My first contraction came and went at 2 p.m., on Sunday, Dec. 16. I wrote it off as gas as we were at a family Christmas party and no way did I think labor would start while I was there. A half hour later I had another sensation like the first …”Could this be the start?” I wondered. I hesitantly texted our doula, Brooke, (as I didn’t want to be the girl that cried wolf) to fill her in just in case it was the start of the real thing. We left the party at about 5:30 p.m., and contractions were still coming every 30 minutes, getting stronger little by little.

On the way home from my sister’s house, we made a pit stop at Meijer (nearby supermarket) for a fishnet (I had realized earlier that day that I never got one, and we needed one for the birth pool), and a few other odds and ends—again just in case. I was willing myself to believe it wouldn’t actually be time. I had a mildly uncomfortable contraction on the way into the store and a stronger one yet that slowed my walking on the way out. (Side note: Imagine how I looked in public, in my leggings and maternity sweater, finished off with socks and Mitch’s (my husband’s) flip flops in December, in Michigan … because I didn’t feel like working to get actually shoes on just to go to my sister’s).

Still hesitant, I texted Sara (midwife) to let her know what was happening as well. Her advice: Have a small glass of wine, take a hot bath and get as much sleep as possible. I did just that after I had a large helping of pasta. I had also looped Janelle (my boss) in just in case for work … she had asked about contractions, etc., and told me, “You’ll be meeting your baby this week!” This week?! Was she crazy? I hope I meet my baby tomorrow, I thought.

As I went to bed at 7 p.m., I was coaxing myself to relax. Just about to fall asleep, I had another contraction to work through. I decided at that point to download a contraction-tracking app. Mitch came into the room and I told him I was still having contractions and I didn’t think I’d be able to sleep. In that moment, he decided to have a mild freak out and let me know our house wasn’t ready for a baby. I told him we didn’t have a choice at that point as he went and fussed with the baby gate to make sure it fit where he wanted it (as if our little man was going to come out walking—this part still makes me giggle).

As he did that, I continued working through contractions that were lasting anywhere from 45 seconds to the longest one at 5 minutes, 4 seconds from start to finish (?!). After my 5-minute contraction, I came out of the bathroom and Mitch started questioning whether or not our plan was still the plan we wanted. Irritated and now questioning myself, I informed him I needed him to be strong and confident and not say things like that. At some point during all of this, he surprised me with affirmation cards that read things like: “I hope the sex was worth it,” “I believe in you,” “Landon is ready to come out now.”

Courtney

Somewhere around 11:30 p.m., Mitch asked if I wanted Brooke to come … I was still so fearful that it would be too soon or even that this wasn’t true labor. Sensing it was what Mitch also needed, we told her to come and she said it would be about 40 minutes and then she’d be over. About an hour later, we received a text from her saying something came up (we later found out she was going to take a power nap and then come, but her alarm never went off), but she was leaving now and confirmed we still wanted her to come.

Brooke arrived at about 1 a.m. at which point she applied oils of some sort on my ankles and prayed over us. I don’t recall all of what was said during her prayer, but I do remember having this overwhelming sense that everything was going to be OK, that I was strong and I could do this. It felt so peaceful.

Brooke said that her feeling of the inconsistent contractions, and spacing of contractions could be due to baby being in a wonky position. She told me it would be beneficial to do the mile circuit to help baby get in a better position. The circuit consisted of 2 contractions on my right side, hands and knees, left side, and back. I made it through all of them and started the first contraction on my back and caved. It was so intense, and an almost involuntary bodily response left me lying on my left side to finish. At the end of that contraction, Brooke continued telling me it would be super beneficial to finish it out but she couldn’t make me do anything I didn’t want to. And man. I did. Not. Want. To!

Courtney and baby

Shortly after that, in between a contraction, Brooke asked me when the last time I had contact with Sara was. I told her it was way earlier in the night and she told me not to reach out until morning or once contractions were 5 minutes apart lasting a minute long. I’ll never forget the moment my eyes locked with Brooke’s and she told me, “We’re there.” About 10 minutes later Charis (midwife assistant/midwife in training) arrived, followed by Sara.

Charis took my blood pressure and checked baby’s heartbeat. It was comforting knowing everything was going as it should for both baby and I.

Little to my knowledge, contractions were still lasting pretty long and were still not as consistent as they could be. The first time I knew Sara was there was when I looked up to her voice after a contraction and she was telling me the same thing Brooke did … that the mile circuit needed to be done. She was a little more forceful with her tone, and I felt I had no better option than to do it. Besides, once it was done I was told I could get into the birth pool. Brooke reminded me that she and Mitch were right there with me working through each one—they were amazing. Listening to what I needed for each one, I loved knowing they were there and feeling the soothing touch from either one as just that: a reminder that I wasn’t alone. The last part was hands and knees this go round—feeling as if every time I wiggled my big toe the contractions came on again, I remember looking up and feeling how far the pool was from me. Two contractions after the circuit was complete Sara came into the room and told me to make my way to the pool.

A little self conscious, I wondered if I should have Mitch grab me a bra to wear as at the point I was still fully clothed. Right as I got to the pool a contraction started up and off my clothes came. I made it as quickly as I could into the warm pool of water and slung myself over the side. With Mitch sitting right in front of me, I grabbed his hands and really belted it out the first contraction in the pool. Holy moly—these were SO MUCH STRONGER being in a squatting position. Questions of wanting to get out of the water and my ability to finish getting this babe out flooded my mind as the contraction ended. Wow, that was tough. The next one came shortly after with this odd, overwhelming sensation to start pushing. I resisted but looked to Brooke after to let her know what I had just felt. “I know it’s way to early to be saying this, but I felt like I needed to push with that one …” Sara met my gaze at the door and said that her and Charis had been listening to my contractions, they were strong, and if I felt I needed to push to listen to my body.

As the next one came I started pushing … still moaning with each push I wondered how much longer it would be. I never asked in fear of the answer being longer than I felt I could handle. Besides, Charis and Sara were still in the kitchen preparing things for after birth … it couldn’t be close. A few contractions (still with some pushing) later, Sara and Charis entered the room and positioned themselves behind me on the outside of the pool. Still facing Mitch and squeezing his hand as hard as I could with each contraction, I started to whimper and almost cry as I started to feel fatigued and like I had no idea what I was doing anymore. The drowsiness was so strong I almost fell asleep a few times in between each contraction. With the next urge to push Sara told me to hold my breath as the pressure from my lungs would help push baby out. This made a world of a difference and also left me gasping for air a few times.

I vaguely remember Sara asking Mitch for a hand-held mirror, which he quickly went and brought back for her. She positioned it in the water to see what was going on at which point (I’m told via Mitch) she and Charis locked eyes, nodded as if to say it’s go time, and put on their gloves. Mitch locked eyes with me and quietly told me, “Shit’s about to get real, they just put their gloves on.”

“Do you know where you want to have this baby? Here in the pool or back in bed?” Sara asked. “I have no idea.” I quickly replied. “You have about two contractions before you need to make that decision,” she informed me. With that in mind, I told her I wasn’t moving.

I found myself yelling, “This hurts so bad!” with the next surge and Sara asked me to touch where it hurt. Not knowing if I wanted to feel any of that, I snapped back with a harsh “No!” To my surprise, she also quickly came back with a stern, “Yes, you need to.” Reaching down, I felt either a head or my bag of waters as they had not yet broke. The reality of how close this baby was sank in so fast and I got so excited. As the contraction ended, I felt everything slide back up inside of me. With new energy and a drive to end this as fast as I could, I pushed with all my strength. Going a little too fast, Sara told me to slow down in the middle of one. I rested a minute and the urge started coming back. Sara mentioned something about the fact that my water would probably break with this next one. Starting to push, I felt the explosion immediately followed by head, shoulders, and the rest of my sweet baby’s body sliding out.

Now needing to flip positions (as I didn’t want to move out of the squatting position for pushing) I slid over to sit and take my baby. Nothing about those moments felt like real life as I held my baby to my chest. I silently thanked God for this perfect miracle, this perfectly imperfect birth, and my ability to work through it all. It’s still amazing to me how peaceful it all was. There is nothing quite like bringing a baby earth side, listening to your body, and the sweet surrender of it all.

Written by Courtney Harkema 

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