Hello and welcome to this week’s Motherhood Unfiltered Blog post. This week we are super excited to share another birth story! Catherine had a long labor and her story is so inspiring. It is a reminder to be confident in the strength of ourselves and our bodies. We asked her:
What things did you do to prepare for your labor/birth of your child?
One of the first things my husband and I did after finding out we were expecting was decide on our birthing team. We knew we wanted to work with the midwives at GW and I started looking for a doula right away. We decided to work with Mother Nurture Doula Services (Amy Durham) after an initial interview with her via Zoom. Because this was our first pregnancy, my husband and I also took a few classes to prepare for labor and the birth of our son. We took a 5 week Birthing From Within course provided by Balanced Birth Support. Pamela, the instructor for the course, was gentle, caring, and a wonderful addition to our preparation for labor and birth.
What were some of your fears leading up to your delivery?
I think my biggest fear was having to be induced and/or having to have an unplanned c-section. I really, really hoped I could have a natural, unmedicated birth. With this being my first pregnancy, I really didn’t know what else there was to fear. My birthing team was incredible and made me feel as prepared and comfortable as possible as I waited patiently for labor to begin. I trusted my body would know what to do when the time came – and it did!
Here is her son, Kolbe’s, birth story:
“When a woman is in labor, she has pain because her hour has come; but when she is delivered of the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a child is born into the world.” John 16: 21
The thirteen days that followed Kolbe’s “guess date” were just as agonizing for us as they were for the many friends and family that reached out to make sure they hadn’t missed the big news. I had done the spinning baby exercises, the acupuncture, and even had my fair share of pineapple —this baby boy still wasn’t making moves. I was torn between trusting that my body knew how and when to go into labor on its own and giving up. One thing was certain, I did NOT want to be induced. I knew of the downhill spiral the introduction of Pitocin could cause and really wanted to have both a vaginal and unmedicated birth, so I was willing to do everything I could to try to avoid it — including asking everyone I knew to pray.
A midwife outside of GW I had been in touch with, out of the kindness of her heart, offered to come to our home and do a membrane sweep in addition to castor oil and homeopathic tinctures on Wednesday, January 19th. I owe her big time! I don’t think I would have had the birth I so desperately wanted if it weren’t for her coming those few hours before my scheduled induction the next morning. Following her visit, my husband, Bret, and I went to the 5:30 p.m. Mass at the Shrine of the most Blessed Sacrament — I knew I would need every ounce of grace available over the next few days.
Around 1:15 a.m. on January 20th, I woke up from a dead sleep with intense waves lasting about a minute long and anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes apart. I got out of bed and woke up Bret, who pretty quickly sprang into action packing the car with our bags, showering, and then calling our doula, Amy. Amy had mailed me a TENs unit to use throughout labor, which Bret put on my back while we were at home and I had on up until the last three hours of labor. I’d use it again, and if nothing else, it served as a mild distraction and gave me something “to do” with each wave I felt.
I was able to labor at home until about 3:30 a.m., at which point we decided to head to the hospital, knowing we would have to wait for a COVID test in triage once we got there. We arrived (along with 6 others within the same hour!) and were placed in triage to be monitored until my COVID test came back negative and a room opened up.
About three hours later, my COVID test came back negative and they had a room for us! They unfortunately didn’t have a room with a tub…and their hot water wasn’t working. I had also been hoping to use their wireless monitoring so I wasn’t stuck in bed hooked up to a machine—but due to supply chain shortages, they didn’t have the necessary parts to use the wireless monitors. On the plus side, Amy quickly made the room feel cozy (as cozy as one could) with string lights and essential oils. I was grateful for these small touches that made the ambiance a little more relaxing; including my birthing playlist I had put together in the weeks leading up to Kolbe’s due date.
The next several hours were pretty uneventful in the grand scheme of things. We met the new midwife, Katie, who was on call during the day. She was super chill and told me she’d be out in the hall if I needed anything but otherwise she’d just hang back and be in awe of what I can do on my own. The nurse that day was so sweet; constantly telling me I was doing everything “perfectly” and that she was so proud of me. Those bits of encouragement along the way were much appreciated. The team really made me believe that “my body knows when and how to birth my baby.”
Just a few details perhaps worth sharing: Bret and I had put together a birth plan and brought copies to share with the team at GW. They posted it up on the wall for their staff to see and I didn’t have to answer any questions, which was really nice. I had tested positive for Group B Strep about a month earlier and after reading evidence based birth and discussing with Amy, I decided to decline antibiotics throughout labor, a typical hospital protocol for GBS+ patients. I also declined having a hep-lock, until the last few hours of labor. If you know me, you know needles and hospitals in general aren’t my forté. Not being hooked up to IVs made it a little more comfortable for me. I was also able to disconnect from the monitors periodically to be able to labor while moving around the room. This was extremely helpful and I was so grateful to have a doula who advocated for me. Because I wasn’t induced with Pitocin, I was able to eat and drink as I wanted, another great blessing! We brought individual servings of bone broth (highly recommend), jello, pudding, dried mango, peanut butter crackers, and honey sticks— all of which I enjoyed throughout labor and it gave me the little bit of energy I needed.
At some point that afternoon I decided to go ahead and have my cervix checked — I was between 4-5 centimeters dilated. This wasn’t discouraging, but we were all a little surprised due to the amount of time I’d already been laboring and the intensity of my waves. Amy didn’t skip a beat and suggested we do some spinning babies exercises. Shortly after we finished those, my waves started feeling and sounding very different — I remember nurses and midwives coming in to check on us because they could hear the difference from the hall.
Nothing too notable happened between that time and around 9:00 p.m., when I decided to have my cervix checked again and was 8-9 centimeters dilated. We were all thrilled (myself especially)! I knew I could keep going for a little while longer, and it seemed like Kolbe would be arriving shortly…
Well, not quite. The next 7 1/2 hours were the most excruciating yet. My waves changed significantly, and I ended up pushing from midnight on. At this point the shifts had changed again and Nora was the midwife on call — thank the lord for Nora! She was especially instrumental those last four hours and exactly the “coach” I needed. I labored in the bathroom for awhile, giving Bret’s neck a break (sorry babe). I didn’t register that I was experiencing what is called “transition” at this time but I remember going through each wave picturing Christ in the stations of the Cross—falling for the first time, getting back up, falling for the second time, still mustering the strength to stand back up once again, and falling for the third time, somehow finding the courage to stand up and face the rest of the walk to Calvary. This image carried me through. I knew I could do it, one wave at a time. I knew I could find the strength, and had been given the grace, just in time to face just one more.
After three hours of pushing, Nora came in to let me know a few OBs were going to come watch me push for a bit. 3 hours is usually when they like to see the baby arrive (I mean, hey I would have too!) and they were concerned about Kolbe’s size at 42 weeks. She reassured me that she thought a vaginal delivery would be best for me and baby at this point, but wanted to get their second opinion. If you know me, you know I heard OB and was even more determined to push this baby out — as soon as possible. I hadn’t labored for 26 hours without any medical intervention just to be wheeled away for a c-section.
Two female OBs came and were kind and encouraging cheerleaders for that last hour. I had Nora, two OBs, Amy, and the nurses instructing me how to push. This was actually extremely helpful —and I was grateful I could feel each wave as they came, pushing with every ounce of energy I had left to get one step closer. They all had faith in me that I could do it — Bret told me at one point I cried out to God for help and Nora said, “you’re helping yourself!”
Finally, at 4:30 a.m. Kolbe Joseph was born. I don’t even remember that last push; I was beyond mentally and physically drained. Kolbe was brought to my chest immediately and I almost couldn’t believe it —my baby boy was finally laying on my chest. I felt almost immediate relief, before the adrenaline wore off and I could feel every ache of my body. As soon as Kolbe was out and crying, they sent away the additional OBs and pediatric team they had brought in. I birthed my placenta and Bret cut the cord after it had turned white. Our son had arrived! And it began to sink in.
We had two hours in that room before they transferred us to a postpartum recovery room down the hall. Boy was I not prepared for that! But the team at GW continued to impress us. Everyone who came into our room was so sweet and excited for us. Pro tip: bring your own string and tea lights! It made the periodic visits throughout the night way less disruptive — and the nurses loved them!
There are so many I owe thanks to for the care and support I was given throughout this journey to motherhood— from my creighton practitioner, NaPro Doctor, and doula to all of the many nurses and midwives we’ve seen over the past year. I am forever grateful to have worked with a team of women who empowered me with the knowledge and tools necessary to make informed decisions for myself and our baby boy. At my postpartum visit with Nora, who delivered Kolbe, she said “oh we didn’t “let” you labor for that long. We witness you empower yourself and do it on your own.”
During my pregnancy I read Mary’s book “Made for This.” I believe this phrase even more wholeheartedly after experiencing the life-giving pains of childbirth and the joys and self-sacrifice of motherhood. Women are made for this. Our bodies, our minds, and our hearts are made for all that motherhood encompasses. “You were made by God to do this, and he will give you the strength in each single moment to keep going” — Amen! He did just that.
Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Catherine! You can follow Catherine’s motherhood journey on Instagram.