Raleigh Parker Kearns: Birth Story

I told myself so many times to write down the details so I would remember it all! I never got around to it (until now), so I’ll do the best I can at sharing how wonderful (and dare I say beautiful?) the birth of our Raleigh Parker was!
The Mr. and I were spending our Friday night like most of my Friday nights at nine months pregnant (and only three days away from my due date)–lounging on the couch with Netflix. That night I felt, without any other way to really describe it, “uncomfortable”. I had been experiencing braxton hicks contractions for weeks at that point, but, for some reason, I felt a little more uncomfortable that night. I told Ryan, but we didn’t think much of it, since it wasn’t that intense. The rest of the night was normal, and we went to bed without any expectations.
I woke up a little after 2:00 am with a contraction that was just a bit more intense than I had previously experienced. I woke Ryan up and we waited. Nothing happened, so we both ended up falling back to sleep.
Then shortly after 4:00 am I woke up to a contraction that was “so” intense (I say that jokingly now) that it surprised me and I started crying. Ryan woke up and comforted me and we waited some more. I downloaded the app Full Term on my phone and began timing. BIG MISTAKE. The contractions weren’t that intense, weren’t close together, and didn’t last very long. We should have just gone back to sleep, but, instead, we timed every single contraction for the next sixteen hours.
After a while, we decided to get out of bed and get ready for the day. I was able to walk and talk through contractions and they weren’t consistent at this point. Around 9:00 am we went to the farmer’s market like we normally do on Saturday mornings. We had fun at the farmer’s market–we basically told everyone we talked to that “it could happen any minute”. It didn’t, of course. I called the midwife on-call just to let her know. I then called my mom to give her an update. And I had to insist she didn’t cancel her plans for the entire day–so glad she didn’t, since it was a long day!
The rest of the afternoon, Ryan and I just hung out at home and labored away! We timed every contraction, I drank my labor-aid, ate energy bites, bounced on my birthing ball, and took a couple warm baths with essential oils. I noticed that I lost my mucous plug during a couple bathroom trips (by the way, pregnant mamas out there, losing the plug is very anticlimactic in and of itself). Slowly, but surely, my contractions got longer, more intense (read: painful), and closer together.
The contractions seemed to stall out around six to eight minutes apart for several hours, so around 5:30 pm we decided to go on a walk through our neighborhood. I didn’t make it out of our driveway before a contraction hit and I had to kneel down on the asphalt. We decided we wouldn’t get very far through the neighborhood that way and headed towards the field and wooded area by our house to walk around in the fresh air without being a spectacle. One of our neighbors saw us and came over to chat (sorry you had to see me experience a few contractions, Shelia!) before we decided to head back inside.
Walking around definitely got things moving along a bit more. The contractions were bringing tears to my eyes, and I preferred to lie across the birthing ball instead of getting up to move around. Thankfully, my sweet husband paid attention in our birthing class and insisted that I get up to walk around the house and continue drinking my labor-aid. Changing positions is key to keep things going! I was vocalizing through contractions and had to be reminded to “breathe” through them, although I wasn’t easily able to slow my breathing to a slow, calm pace.
Around 8:00 pm contractions reached one minute long, five minutes apart, consistently for one hour (the long-awaited 5-1-1). Ryan gave our midwife, Nicole, a call to let her know. She told us to get ready to head to the birthing center (more about that here!) and to call back when contractions got just a little closer together. She suggested another warm bath to see if things would progress a little bit more.
Shortly after I got into the bath my water burst. And I mean burst! I had a minor freak-out because I wasn’t exactly expecting to feel (it didn’t hurt, but I did feel it pop), hear, and see it like that. Ryan ushered me into a warm shower to relax a bit while he called the widwife again. Unfortunately, the shower wasn’t exactly soothing at that point since the contractions immediately became pretty painful and closer together once my water broke.

He came back to get me and told me it was time to go! He worked on packing everything up in the car while I attempted putting my clothes back on..they quickly became drenched from my water still leaking out. Somehow I made it to the car, and we began the thirty minute drive to the birthing center. Ryan made a few calls to let friends and family know that it was time while I groaned (or screamed, whatever you want to call it) and yelled about how mad I was they made me wait so long to go in because SURELY I was going to give birth right there in the car.

Well, luckily, I didn’t give birth in the car. And things became basically a blur once we arrived at the center. The midwife and nurse were outside waiting for us, and they helped us to one of the rooms that was all set up for us. She immediately checked to see how dilated I was–yikes. That was my first dilation check, and I never realized how uncomfortable that actually was. I was only 4 centimeters dilated. FOUR. Right away I pretty much had a meltdown. I was expecting to be ready to start pushing at any second–I felt ready!

They had me lie on the bed with a peanut ball between my legs to help open up my cervix naturally. Lavender essential oil was put in the diffuser to help create a relaxing environment while we tried to get labor moving along. Ryan and the nurse basically had to help me move around into different positions on the bed because I felt completely paralyzed. I felt pretty nauseated as well, so they had me sniff peppermint essential oil to help (with a barf bag nearby). Surprisingly, the peppermint oil made me feel a bit more anxious and I ended up flinging it away. An hour later, though, I was 6 centimeters dilated!

I labored through a couple contractions in the bathroom and then we decided that I should go ahead and get in the birthing tub for the water to help with the pain and discomfort. It made a huge difference!

Shortly thereafter I was 8 centimeters, then 10–ready to go! The progress was wonderfully quick! Ryan stayed in the room beside the tub with me while I clung to his neck–he really brought new meaning to being a support partner.

I was incredibly thirsty, especially after I got into the warm birthing tub. I could only manage the word “water” to let them know what I wanted. But it turned out that was quite confusing–was the water too hot? too cold? No! Just give me water!

Around 12:00 am I felt the tiniest impulse to push. It wasn’t as strong as I imagined it would be, but my body knew what to do. While in the water I was able to freely switch positions, with squatting (still clinging to Ryan’s neck) being the most comfortable and most fruitful. Throughout our time at the center, especially once I started pushing, they did intermittent fetal monitoring using an exterior doppler–it was exciting to hear his little heartbeat just minutes before we knew we were going to meet him for the first time!

When I first arrived at the center my hair was in a topknot. Somewhere along the way I realized that my hair was no longer in this topknot and I was absolutely drenched with sweat. I wanted to ask Ryan or the nurse to put my hair back up, but I couldn’t even verbalize it! “Water” (labor makes you thirsty!) and, I’ll admit it, “I can’t do this” were the only things I really said for a while.

After maybe fifteen or twenty minutes of pushing our midwife announced that she could see Raleigh’s head and he was so close! I could literally reach down and touch his head! It was amazing and frustrating all at once–he was right there, come on! After another, seemingly long fifteen minutes of pushing, Raleigh emerged..partially! Of course I knew that forceps, vacuums, and even “yanking” were far from ideal, but I figured once he was out that far that we could just lightly pull him out. Nope! I suggested that they just pull him out (ahem..I might have yelled this), and I was politely told “no” and that I needed to keep pushing. Defeated, I pushed some more.

I was very vocal towards the end of pushing (no matter that my parents and in-laws were waiting in the next room over and could absolutely 100% hear me..), but my midwife had to keep reminding me to put that energy towards pushing. She was so gentle, but firm–she knew what it would take to get our baby out quick and safe.

At12:37 am Raleigh Parker Kearns officially graced our lives with his sweet presence weighing in at 6 lb 14 oz and 20.5 inches long.

[From our newborn shoot with Joy Davis Photography when Raleigh was 12 days old]

Our midwife had me grab him out of the water, and I was immediately able to hold him close doing skin-to-skin. Raleigh didn’t cry, and Ryan and I were in pure amazement. I was sort of out of it, but I remember saying that I couldn’t see him–I had him snuggled so close, but I wanted to look at him! The nurse snapped a few photos on my iPhone (sorry, these are private and not exactly G-rated) while we waited for the umbilical cord to stop pulsing. The cord was then clamped, and Ryan had the honor of cutting it.

We made our way from the birthing pool to the bed where we could get cozied up to stare and snuggle skin-to-skin with our sweet baby. Our parents came in not longer after to meet their new grandbaby. The rest of the night went very quickly. We arrived around 9:30 pm, I delivered Raleigh at 12:37 am, and then we left around 3:30 am. Yep, you read that right! Birthing centers don’t require you to stay very long after birth, and since all I had were very light abrasions (no rips here, praise The Lord!) in my nether region, there was no reason we couldn’t head home and get absolutely comfortable.

So at 4:15 am on Sunday, August 9, 2015 we arrived home as a family of three!

While not necessarily easy, and certainly not without pain, our labor and delivery experience was unforgettable, and has me sure that we will choose a natural water birth for our next little babe. I could not have managed without an amazing support team, including my incredible husband, Ryan. He was by my side from the very first “uncomfortable” contraction, and was full of encouragement the entire time. I am so thankful for him (and his patience)!

We were prepared throughout pregnancy that things do happen and situations arise that are out of our control, and a trip to the hospital and even interventions were a real possibility. But with God’s grace, everything went according “to plan”. We were able to achieve a natural birth at our birthing center without any interventions whatsoever! I felt cared for, respected, and safe. I couldn’t have dreamed or prayed for a more liberating and joyous experience. Read our Birth Goals here (more about our placenta encapsulation in a later post)!

About halfway through typing this post I questioned sharing so much. Will this gross my friends out? Am I embarrassing myself? Who really cares? No worries if you stopped reading after the first paragraph or two (which means you wouldn’t be reading this now)–all I know is that when I was pregnant I was glued to just about every birth story I could find, natural or not. I was so interested in the details and the unique aspects of each journey. So I hope you enjoyed reading about our experience!


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