Birth Stories

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 

Birth Stories

Birth Story of Lennox Haven

I just want to preface this story and say that this is MY BIRTH STORY and this is what happened to me. Everyone has a different experience, everyone has different trials, pain management levels, long labors, short labors, home births, vbacs, cesareans, etc. I’m well aware some people have had incredible birth experiences, and some have had absolutely necessary emergency experiences, and some have not been able to bring their baby home from the hospital. I think it is important to honor women and what their bodies were able to do free of judgement on both sides whether you had an amazing birth experience (like I did) or whether it was very traumatic. My hope is that you leave your experience feeling zero shame or guilt, and that if my story can at all encourage or help you, great, but otherwise, this is my experience so here it goes.

It was Thursday morning, Sept. 6. I was 38 weeks and two days when I woke up to a bit of blood-tinged mucous and all I could think of was, “YES, it’s go time!” I had an appointment that day with a midwife from the birth center, and I was so excited to tell her what I saw! At this point, I had been surviving the countdown with trash reality TV—aka Bachelor in Paradise—countless squats, walks, yoga, and red raspberry leaf tea. Needless to say, I was ready.

I had zero contractions at that point, and felt completely normal. I had an unbelievably easy pregnancy without any morning sickness, and always had a ton of energy (PRAISES, because I know that isn’t always the case—yet, it can happen).

When we got to the appointment, the midwife assured me what I had seen was a good sign, but said not to get my hopes up because it could very well be an additional two weeks or so before we would meet our girl.

The next evening, I had just gone to bed and I had what felt like a period cramp—only it lasted for about 20 seconds. Then a few hours later, I felt another one, and then it occurred to me that these must be Braxton hicks contractions and my uterus is getting ready for the big show!

I had little baby contractions on and off for about 5 days and I’d time them here and there to get a feel for what was going on. It wasn’t until Wednesday, Sept. 12, in the afternoon, when some of these surges started to get my attention. They were still pretty far apart but would last about 45-50 seconds. I took these opportunities to be totally aware and in control of my body, and feel everything, and “breathe my baby down.” I practiced so many different techniques that would hopefully help me cope with the pain. My first approach was I would open my hands, breathe, and accept the surge of the contraction, knowing that it was preparing my body for birth … yeah, that only worked for a little bit and was NOT helping me get in the right head and mental space. When trying to have a completely unmedicated birth, I can now 100 percent say, it is completely mental.

Once I changed my approach and began to look at laboring and birth as an athletic event, everything shifted for the better, and I knew my body was 100 percent capable of birthing this baby without medication. I was completely open minded and flexible to allow whatever needed to happen, but I was very hopeful and determined that I wouldn’t need an epidural. I began to drop in a squat when I would feel a contraction come on. I would move around and be as active through it as I possibly could, and I would breathe that baby down like my life depended on it.This went on for the majority of the afternoon.

That evening, Tyler and I decided we would go to Sprouts grocery store and pick up a few more staple items for our hospital bag (we decided to bring our own food because we didn’t know what the hospital would be serving). About five minutes after we got to the store, I had the first surge that really got my attention in the chip aisle, and I immediately started pacing and breathing deeply, and I said to Tyler, “Yeah, this is definitely happening some time tonight.”

We got home and after a few more surges of about 60 seconds apiece, they started to get more irregular, so I thought, “Well, maybe that was just more practice?” It was about 10 o’clock and we decided to go to bed and see what would happen, so I climbed in bed and not even 5 minutes later I had a pretty intense surge that shot me out of bed. I was breathing deeply. I told Tyler to keep sleeping and I’d come get him when I needed him. I went to the living room for a little bit. At this point, I still wasn’t really sure if this was it so I started timing the contractions again.

I didn’t even realize it, but a few hours had gone by and I’d been walking around, breathing, squatting, moaning, and then finally once I started shaking, I was like, OK, time to wake up Tyler. He immediately called the midwife on call and they told us to come in since we had a 45-minute drive to our birth center.

Side note—I chose a birth center because it was the closest thing to a home birth that I could get, which was actually what I really wanted, but didn’t feel completely comfortable with because we were living in an apartment at the time, and I didn’t see myself super comfortable in that environment.

Lets talk about that 45-minute car drive that Tyler pulled off in maybe 20 minutes?! Yeah, he’s the bomb!

Looking back now, I’m pretty sure I was going through transition in the car—so that was fun! I distinctly remember Tyler accelerating after one instance when I literally had 3 contractions in a row with maybe a 20-second break in between.

The midwife I did not want to have was on call that night, but I was trying to stay positive and focus on my mind and controlling the surges. We got to the birth center about 2:45 a.m., and at first, the nurses and midwife did not believe me that I was in labor and seemed irritated that I was there until they FINALLY checked me and I was dilated to 8.5! Yeah, then they started taking me seriously! They filled up the birthing tub for me and at that time, it was around 4:45 a.m., so I got in and it felt so good.

Courtnie and Tyler

I remember Tyler always right there with me, coaching me and holding my hand and at one point, he had just eaten a peanut butter Perfect Bar, and I remember asking him to please put some gum in his mouth in more or less words, haha!  I tried to sleep a bit in between contractions, and being in the water seemed to halt progress a bit, so after awhile I was over it and wanted to get out. I wasn’t super excited about the midwife or the nurses that were on call, so thankfully at 7 a.m., the shift change happened and we were blessed with the most amazing midwife, nurse, and doula EVER! It was the A-TEAM for sure, and I knew it was only a matter of time now!

I was complete at 9 a.m. but I never felt the urge to push or bear down and my waters were still intact. My midwife wanted to break my water but I was nervous about that and wanted to wait a bit longer. My doula, husband, and nurse were taking turns giving me hip squeezes, which LITERALLY took the contractions from a 10 to a 5 (pain level) easily. I was so shocked how much that helped. After I got out of the water, we played the game of let’s try and find a comfortable position for a few hours, and I always ended up sitting on the stability ball. That seemed to be the most comfortable for me toward the end. I was obviously tired and getting to the point where I needed some fuel. I had some plantain chips and coconut water, but nothing else sounded good so I knew things needed to progress.

My midwife came back in at exactly 12 p.m. and said to me, “Listen, I know you’re worried that you will stall out if I break your water, but your baby girl’s head is so low and far down in your pelvis, if I break your water now you will have her in 30 minutes.”

That was just the confidence I needed. We all agreed that was the best course of action and moved forward with it. About 10 minutes had passed and they were all trying to explain to me how to push—I could not find a rhythm at all, I didn’t understand it.

After trying a few different positions—one of them straddling the toilet, which will totally cramp up your hips so I do not recommend this, haha!—I decided to get back in the water and finally felt comfortable again.

Pushing was absolutely the hardest part of labor for me hands down. I know some people feel relief when they push, but I think at that point I was so tired and it made everything harder.

Lennox Haven

About 7 pushes later at 12:36 p.m. I pulled Lennox out of my body from the water and onto my chest and it was the best moment in my entire life.

We did it.

She was finally here.

She opened up her eyes immediately and looked right up at me and I cried.

I could not even believe what had just happened, and the fact that after 39 weeks and 2 days of growing her, I was holding her in my arms.

I looked at Tyler and could not have loved him more.

Look at this little girl who came into the world from us, wanted, and already loved so much. Our hearts were bursting.

Once the cord stopped pulsating, after 10 minutes or so, they cut it and gave her to Tyler to hold while they helped clean me up. They needed to pull me out of the tub pretty quickly because I lost quite a bit of blood, and once I got back on the bed, about one push later, out came my placenta. I had apparently had an abruption.

I was bleeding pretty excessively so they needed to give me pitocin and then a shot of methergene after that. Had I not have had these minor interventions, I would have needed a blood transfusion, so I am very grateful for our nurse who NEVER left our room or my side, and our midwife for acting so quickly and explaining everything to me in the process.

Tyler and Lennox

All the while, my sweet husband and baby girl were bonding, having skin-to-skin time, so I am so grateful he was with me every step of the way as well. Minus the physical pain, he was an EQUAL playing partner in the role of our daughter’s birth. He did anything and everything he could to help me and coach me through the process of having our baby girl in our arms.

I think sometimes we can forget that just like the very moment I pulled my daughter out of my body, I was reborn as a mother, my husband was right there with us and something chemically changed in HIM as well. Even more than ever before, he was a protector, provider, hero, and a DADDY. Such a beautiful thing to experience and go through together, and I’m so grateful for that.

Now here we are, and I’m looking over at this sweet angel of a baby babbling, and drooling all over her toys, and she’s flashing me the most perfect gummy smile, and I think to myself, “I can’t believe this is my life.” All of the pain, the tears, the hard work of growing her and birthing her has made me realize what a gift life is, and if I can live each day in gratitude and choose joy everyday, I know that no matter how anything else goes she will be loved, nurtured, and cared for in the most authentically real way possible.

Written by Courtnie Wysong