KAIA'S BIRTH STORY
Updated: Oct 24
PART 34, TRYING FOR ANOTHER BLOG SERIES
My last post was the day labor began: Sunday, Oct 16th. I was headed to Sebastopol for an acupuncture visit right after I posted. I decided to find myself some spicy Asian food for lunch in Sebastopol beforehand. I ended up at the Farmer’s Market, eating pumpkin curry from an Indian stand and listening to some highschool band sing, “Hotel California” in the Sebastopol square, as my contractions intensified. They were about 3-5 mins apart, had been going for about an hour, and were at about a 3 on my intensity scale.
I texted my doula, Bee, to make sure it was ok to get acupuncture during contractions. “Yes!” She said, “this is the perfect time to get acupuncture!” She then asked, “how far are you from home and are you alone?” I laughed, yes, I was alone and twenty minutes from home. But it was nothing to worry about because by the time I got to my appointment the contractions had again subsided. I met the wonderful Jennifer Monin, who practices acupuncture from a studio at her home. She was delightful and ended up knowing my husband through his work. My contractions began again in the middle of my session, but were not too persistent. Until I got in the car.
We finished out session at about 2 pm and on my way home I had three contractions that I almost had to pull over for. Oh my gosh, here we go! I thought. But as soon as I got in my house they went away! Ugh! How frustrating, I thought. I decided to do some curb walking, and then rest a bit. We were heading to Julian’s soccer game at 5:30 pm, so I wanted to rest beforehand. I texted Dr. Jen and asked if she had any advice to make these dang contractions continue! Dr. Jen prescribed greasy food and sex. Well sex wasn’t going to happen right then, but we could get down on some greasy food. We stopped at Taco Bell on the way to the game and loaded up on spicy sauce to boot.
At this point my contractions had begun again at 4:30. We got to the game at 5:30, still having consistent contractions, 3-5 mins apart, at about a 3, but no big deal because they’d gone an hour 4-5 times before. Then we got to 90 minutes of it. At this point I messaged Bee to just update her. I was not able to sit at this time, and was using the hip drop method in between my contractions- which really helped instigate them if they seemed to be stalling. We made it through the entire game- 7pm without needing to leave. I felt certain that things were different this time, I just didn’t know how different it was going to get.
We got home, put the kids to bed, and let Julian know that he may be on duty in the middle of the night until Nana (my mom) arrived if things picked up and we went to the hospital. My contractions mostly continued, but sometimes I was having to work to get them to continue, and sometimes there’d be a lull. At 9:30 Bee checked in with me and suggested that I try to get some sleep. “If it is the real deal then you will be woken up, and you’ll be glad that you got a little bit of sleep in.” I agreed and that’s exactly what happened. I fell asleep at 9:30 and woke up at 11 in pain. Got out of bed after three strong contractions. They were about 3 minutes apart and more like a 5 in intensity. At 11:30 I called Bee. She was on her way over to try and keep us comfortable at home for a bit. Ten minutes later I called her and said, “meet us at the hospital.” It’s not that things were unbearable at this point, but I knew things were changing very quickly and I didn’t know how soon until I would NEED to be at the hospital.
So we get to Kaiser in ten minutes and enter through the Emergency Room. Bee meets us as we’re walking in. As we’re walking up I felt a little bit like it might be too early, but again, I knew it wouldn’t be long. My contractions were 3 mins apart and painful but not crippling. I did have to stop and not talk through them though.
They took me and Luc to triage and ushered Bee away somewhere else, I’m not even sure where. At 12:30 am the midwife checked my cervix (forget about not wanting to get checked- I wanted to know), and I was only 3 cms and 65% effaced!! What a letdown!! And that meant, the midwife told me, that I would not be admitted. They wanted me to be at 6 cms before being admitted and they wouldn’t check me for another 2 hours! Which sounded like forever to me! I started counting down the time.
My choices were to wait in triage during that two hours, without Bee, or I could get out of triage and released into the waiting room outside of L&D, where Bee could also be. Both not good options, because I did not want to have to do the whole triage process again- Covid test, taking your vitals, asking all your info, yada yada. But I also didn’t want to be without my doula for those two hours. But, I ended up not having to decide because they were not happy with baby’s heart rate activity. Apparently she wasn’t showing enough range in her heart rate. They kept me on for a bit longer than normal then decided that they wanted to admit me because they wanted to keep an eye on baby. Yay! I was getting admitted. I had a strong feeling that two hours would get me much further than 6 cms, so I was happy to hear that I wouldn’t be going far. And if I didn’t progress past 6 cms in two hours, I felt certain that I would not be able to continue enduring the pain without an epidural!
The next two hours were a blur. First, we got admitted into a great big L&D room, so that was nice. Next they try to put an IV stint in me, and failed 4 times! This whole process took about 40 mins. Meanwhile I’m having to sit on the edge of the bed, throughout my contractions, while they bring in different people to stab me. It was NOT comfortable, but I also wonder if it served as a distraction from my contractions. The third nurse finally got the stint in through the top of my hand, which is their last resort because it’s less comfortable. I did not care at that point and was just happy to finally be free to stand and move about. (Side note, they never even ended up using the IV).
I spent the next hour at the counter top, shifting my weight side to side, leg to leg, moaning, screaming, crying through contractions. Everything was a blur. I heard background noise, but was not fully conscious of it. I don’t know how far apart my contractions were- maybe one minute. It was the worst pain I’d ever felt. I crumpled into Luc’s arms a few times and whimpered, “I can’t do this.” “You can,” he would say. I remember one time Bee saying, “THIS is it. You ARE doing it.” She coached me through each contraction: “long, slow breaths,” she would say. As each contraction was ramping up, so would my breathing, until I would eventually hear Bee, and try to take control with a long, slow breath or two before the contraction ended. In between contractions I would try to let tension go, releasing from the top down. Luc and Bee were on each side of me the entire time. Eventually I felt pressure pushing down, which elicited some delightful groaning moans. After a few of those, where I thought, “this feels like I could push,” I shared with the crowd: “I think I need to push!” My husband told me later that this is also when I started yelling, “Get this thing out of me!” And also screaming, “F***!!!!” through my contractions. I don’t remember either of those things, but...the things you say in labor. I’m sure there’s a book.
Ok, so it was now 2:20 am, not yet two hours since I had first been checked! Bee says to me, let’s try three more contractions before having them check you again. “Ok, ok.” I say. Three more grunting groaning contractions, where I felt the pressure of the baby pushing down on my pelvic floor, and that’s when it was communicated to the midwife that I needed to push. I agreed to her checking me, rolled onto the bed, which felt impossible, and I was 100% effaced and 8-9 cms dilated. I handled maybe five more contractions on my back in the bed, which actually felt like a relief to be off of my feet, and then it was go time. Luc was on one side of me and Bee on the other. I must have left permanent scars in their hands, the way I was gripping them (digging my nails into Luc). Bee encouraged me to flip over because my plan was to birth on all fours for the first time. “I don’t think I can,” I said. “Yes you can,” she responded and helped me flip over.
There I was on all fours. I didn’t know how I got here, it all happened so fast, but it was here and it was happening. Time to push. I wanted this over. I wanted the pain to stop and to get this baby out of me!
At first i didn't know if it was okay to push. No one was coaching me. After two contractions where I somewhat pushed and could feel baby's head start to emerge and then go back in when I stopped pushing, the midwife who was calmly planted on the edge of my bed (last I checked) asked if I wanted to reach down and feel baby's head after I pushed. I tried but couldn't feel it. “Thats ok,” she assured me. Some birth stories with mothers pushing for hours with baby's head emerging then submerging over and over again crossed my mind and I decided that was not going to be me and I was going to give it my all on my next push. So I did, with a roar from the deepest depths within me, and out came baby's head. I can still remember the feeling of my vagina opening up and making way for baby’s exit. “There we go! Just one more push for the body!” And I went again. I remember feeling the shoulders penetrating my limits as the widest part of her pushed through and then the rest of the body sliding out. Holy crap! “2:44 am” was declared.
I felt like collapsing face down, but knew I needed to turn over to hold my baby. I made my way around, as they placed the baby to my chest. After a second, someone said, “Do we know what it is?” I had forgotten all about finding out the gender! Someone helped me spread the legs and determine, “It’s a GIRL!” Just as we had suspected.
I don’t remember what I said after that. Luc was crying. I couldn’t believe that I just went through that whole experience. I threw my head back on the bed in exasperation. We oodled over the baby for a moment, and she was coughing quite a bit. A wet cough. I couldn’t believe how cute she was already!
The midwife told me it was time to birth the placenta- she asked me if I could push. I did, and it wasn’t comfortable, but nothing in comparison to what I’d just done. A big huge placenta came gushing out, and the midwife oodled over how beautiful it was. It’s not every day you get your placenta complimented. She asked if Luc and I wanted to feel the umbilical cord. We did. It was much bigger than I expected and totally not human-like.
Eventually they asked if we were ready to cut the umbilical cord. Baby was still doing this wet cough/crying. I had requested delayed cord clamping, but had no idea how much time had passed, so I asked. “Ten minutes,” they said, which was great, since I had only requested three- five. So they cut the cord and took her to the warmer to check her breathing. She hadn’t given a full cry yet, which was concerning them. One of the nurses was tending to Kaia, checking her breathing for maybe five minutes, before deciding to call the pediatrician on duty. The two of them looked her over for a few minutes, at which point Bee kindly spoke up, “do you want to tell them what you’re looking for?” They told us that she wasn’t getting quite enough oxygen, it was borderline, but they wanted to take her to the NICU to get some help with breathing. They didn’t seem too concerned, so I wasn’t either. It wasn’t a whisking away, but more of a methodical thought process to take her. So I felt calm, yet unhappy that she wouldn’t be with me. I knew it was ideal for she and I to be together, but of course breathing is more important. And mostly I was probably dealing with the aftershock of the labor I had just completed.
Bee stayed by my side, while Luc went with Kaia to the NICU, and the room emptied out. It was dark, aside from Bee’s star lights strung in the corner of the room. Bee sat beside me as I spun through my recollection of what had just happened. “I can’t f***ing believe that just happened!” I kept saying. We talked about concerns around Kaia, and Bee thought that it also didn’t sound too serious, and that it was probably caused by the quick birth. Typically, I learned, the birthing process allows time to squeeze the fluid out of the baby’s lungs on their way out. Mine being so short, that process was skipped.
Bee also told me to start hand expressing colostrum to collect for Kaia to eat ASAP. She sent me this old school video from the 80’s that showed how to hand-express milk. The nurses had given me a little cup and some syringes for the milk. I compressed and squeezed one boob at a time, and little drops of golden milk dripped into the cup. Bee was amazed by how much milk I collected- which gave my mood a nice little uptick. I filled two syringes with my magic gold.
After 10 to 20 minutes, I texted Luc to see how Kaia was, and he eventually responded that she was good. A nurse came in and told me that I was going to get to go see her and to bring my syringes. They brought a wheelchair in for me, and Bee said, “this is where I say goodbye!” She stayed and made my bed for me and cleaned up, and then was on her way. I was so glad to have her as my coach through it all, and by my side while Kaia and Luc were gone.
I always envisioned that having a baby in the NICU would be just about the worst thing possible. But, I didn’t feel anywhere near that in my experience. Maybe it was hormones kicking in to fight mode. When I went to see Kaia, she had assisted breathing through tubes in her nose, and was laying pretty peacefully. They had blankets surrounding her and like a warm neck warmer on top of her. I held her hand and let her know I was there. Then one of the nurses showed me how to give her little droplets of milk on the side of her mouth. She ate about 1.5 of the syringes.
The NICU nurses explained that they were waiting to get her breathing to 21%, and it was currently at 30%. They would keep her 24-48 hours, they told us. If I was discharged before her, then only one parent would be able to stay in a room while she was there. Well shit, that sounded terrible, but still, I wasn’t panicking or emotional about it. I just wanted our baby healthy and believed she would get there in a matter of time.
Luc and I were ushered back to our L&D room, and I ordered the spaghetti and meatballs for dinner. I ate the whole darn thing. We started packing up to get transferred to our postpartum recovery room, which happened at about 8 am. I was told I could visit Kaia at 10:30 am to hopefully nurse her if they were able to get her breathing more independently. After the postpartum nurses did their preliminary visits to Luc and I, we took about an hour nap. I woke up and hand expressed some more milk for her, just in case I wasn’t able to nurse her, and Luc went back to our house to collect some things and shower.
At 10:45 I was led to the NICU to see Kaia, and I received some amazing news! “Guess what?!” said the NICU nurse, Aurora. “She’s doing great, and we were able to take her off of everything!” She was totally disconnected from everything! My eyes welled with tears of joy. Aurora explained that the pediatrician wanted to monitor her breathing without assistance for another hour and then she could go to postpartum with us! What a happy moment that was for me! I couldn’t believe it. I immediately wanted to call Luc but didn’t have my phone on me. The nurse sat me down to nurse her and it was magic to hold her in my arms. She latched a few times and seemed to be breathing perfectly. I sat, holding and getting to know every exposed inch of her for an hour before the pediatrician came in. He explained that she seemed to have a common scenario where the fluid is caused by the quick birth and gets cleared up very quickly and is no longer a concern. Sorry baby Kaia! I had no idea that going slow would have been better for you! Not sure that I would have had a choice anyways though.
I got to roll Kaia down the halls in her crib back to our postpartum room, and surprise Luc who was sitting there waiting for me. “I have a surprise!” I said. He welled up with tears, “No way!!” We are so thankful that that was the extent of our NICU experience. I have so much respect and empathy for the parents who go through this and more.
That is where I will end Kaia’s birth story. In conclusion, looking back on that birth experience (I began processing it during my first night at home), it was the wildest, most painful, dare I say worst labor I have had. It felt like I was on a crazy fast train or rollercoaster ride that was unbearable and racing ahead at this speed that I was not comfortable with. And I had no option to get off. I was bound to this train, it was racing ahead, and I was going with it whether I liked it or not, and I felt like screaming, “Nooooooo!!!” The whole time.
The postpartum midwife asked me during my check-out how I felt about my birth experience. At the time I said that it felt like an accomplishment. She responded that that was good and it’s great to be able to view it in a positive light because often with births that fast it can feel like the mind can’t catch up with the body. And after some reflection, yes, that is what it felt like. LIke my physical body was doing things that I wasn’t mentally prepared for.
It’s funny that I had all these tools in mind: labor positions, inversions, recorded affirmations, a playlist of music. They brought a birth ball in for me. I thought I’d use the peanut ball at some point. None of this even crossed my mind to use during labor! I was just trying to survive the ride, and it all went so fast that no one had time to implement any of these things anyways.
A two hour labor sounds good right? That’s what I would have thought too. But having experienced it, it wasn’t any less painful than my other 12 and 8 hour labors. It was worse. All of the pain was compacted into that two hours. And like I said, my mind was not able to keep up with the process. I had boarded the train and it had sped off before I even knew what was happening.
Next up I will get into my first week of postpartum, and soaking up all the new Baby Kaia love.
Kaia is a derivative of the name Katherine (my name) and is Scandinavian in origin. Kaia's middle name is King, which is my maiden name. So yes, I named her after me. :)
Picture of me resting with Ella hours before giving birth.
Finally she was out!
Her short time in the NICU (above) before returning to our arms (below).