Calvin Wallace Feigal-Barko
Monday, April 14th I awoke with very slight cramps that felt like menstrual cramps. “Oh, perhaps these are Braxton-Hicks contractions finally!” I went to work and felt them occasionally throughout the day.
By that evening they were coming more regularly – 7 – 10 minutes apart, but still pretty mild. 9:00 that evening we decided to drive out to Menomonie to be looked at, just in case! I was not going to sleep well in South Minneapolis knowing that I was so far from Paula, worrying that this might be it. So about 10:30 pm I got checked by Paula. I was effacing, but no dilation. We decided to stay in Menomonie and checked in at the Country Inn & Suites. I highly recommend them. They have a discount for Birthing Center families and sound proof walls. I had gentle menstrual-like cramps all that night, about 7-10 minutes apart, just enough to wake me.
Tuesday, April 15th – I get checked at 10:00 am at the Birth Center – 80% effaced, not really dilated. I think Paula said, “Maybe a fingertip.” So back to the hotel we go. Still uncertain as to if this was it or not. But the contractions, still feeling like menstrual cramps, were getting closer together. My contractions felt like menstrual cramps my entire labor - sometimes really, really intense cramps. That afternoon things were intensifying a bit, I couldn’t speak through the contractions - my mom came out to Menomonie. I called my sister, who lived in Seattle and was planning on coming out on Friday, since I wasn’t due until the following Monday. By this time I was getting a little worried. I thought that perhaps this was it, but something was keeping me from really going into labor. I asked my sister to tell my baby that he/she did not have to wait for her to arrive before being born. I couldn’t go through this until Friday! After having a little “talk” via the phone with my tummy, my sister called my Dad and my step-mom to update them. Even though I told them, “We are not sure if this is it” when my step-mom heard that I could not talk through my contractions, they packed up and came out to Menomonie also. J My mom was keeping statistics while my husband, Kenny, tended to me. By evening I was having contractions 5 minutes apart very regularly. I kept wondering when I would feel my whole uterus contract, but they still felt like menstrual cramps! We ended up having a whole party in the hotel room, all of my parents and my husband, then Mike and Paula came by to check me around 10:00pm. “Mike and Bob (my dad) go buy some wine.” “ Jennifer (my mom) and Ceese (my step-mom) go buy Molly a swimming suit.” She put me in the swimming pool – which felt GREAT! My contractions were intense enough that I needed help getting into my suit, and Kenny or my mom stuck by me in the pool. Leaning on the edge of the pool having contractions was wonderful! Paula checked me just before leaving - I was getting closer, but still not dilating much – perhaps a centimeter, I think she said.
At some point that evening my sister called from Seattle, “I’ll be arriving in MN at 1:00 this morning.” She had changed her ticket and was on her way!
Paula and Mike left after settling me into bed. My family settled into their own hotel rooms, then I kicked into active labor – but I didn’t know it. All I know was that throughout that night the contractions intensified. That night is a blur. The pain was greater. Mom and Kenny found ways to support me, holding my hands, rubbing my back & legs & feet. They took turns napping. I got very little rest.
Wednesday, April 16th - Around 2 or 3 am I started needing to know if this work was DOING anything! I couldn’t stand the idea of working so hard with no progress. Occasionally we would see a little bit of mucus-y blood, the mucus cork was releasing – a very good sign! We had no set time to see Paula the next day and that was bothering me. I decided that by 5:00 am we would call her. She came to see me at 6:00 am, I was dilated 4 cm, cervix still posterior, but it was time to move to the Birth Center! Yay! I also had someone call my chiropractor, who had mentioned that she would be happy to be at the birth – I wasn’t exactly sure what she could do, but she was very familiar with my body, so I thought it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have her expertise as well! She was a great, both for pain management and emotional support.
Packing the hotel room was a blur – my mom and Paula were trying to pack carefully, Kenny was just tossing things into the car. J Someone called my sister, who had arrived with her almost 2 year old son and were at my dad’s house. My youngest brother drove them out from St. Paul.
The first thing I did at the Birthing Center was strip and get straight into the tub – heavenly! My chiropractor rolled up her pants and stepped in for some work on my lower back – especially during contractions – I was getting a lot of low back pressure.
Things slowed down at some point and Kenny & I got some sleep, contractions 12 – 20 minutes apart. It was a great time of rest! I kept being fed grapes and juice and anything else I was willing to take. My family was downstairs, talking, cooking, playing with my young nephew. Mom and Kenny were able to take breaks as needed. Erin, the midwife in training, was with or near me constantly. Writing down contractions, my personal assistant, soothing my fears when I voiced them. I felt waited upon hand and foot! Paula tagged in and out with Erin, consulting, checking on me, figuring things out.
I took a walk outside in their beautiful garden, danced a little with my husband, stopping to lean on him or Erin during contractions. I juggled with my brother. It was very sweet. I could not have had those experiences if I was in a hospital setting.
I have been told that at this point, in a hospital, they would have given me something to get labor going again.
I had a mental shift during that time as well. I had been trying Ina May’s techniques of chanting “open up” and making low sounds, relaxing my throat and lips. (I highly recommend the book “Ina May's Guide to Childbirth” Tuesday nights I was saying , “Oooh God” in that low relaxed way that Ina May recommends. By Wednesday I changed to “Ooooh Yeah.” Powerful pain meant powerful progress in my mind. I welcomed each contraction.
At some point Paula decided that things needed to get started again. Later, I learned that I had gone backwards from 6-7 cm to 5 cm and part of my cervix hardening. I am SO grateful that Paula did not tell me that. She just calmly told me that we needed to get things moving again.
Instead of drugs, we started with the psychological. She asked me to talk about my fears. I had plenty of them! I released my fears – as much as possible. I thanked my mom and Kenny for being with me through the tough time of Tuesday night. We all cried. I thanked Paula and Erin for the work they were doing with me. Paula told me to take a hot shower and talk to my baby. I asked for some soap and shampoo and literally washed the fears off of me. I had a really good talk with the baby, and came out ready for a fresh start.
Next we moved to the physical - they had me do all sorts of things – walking stairs, pelvic floor release, upside down yoga like poses, and nipple stimulation – which REALLY worked! Each time I slowed down after that they got the nipple stimulation going again and wow – here come the contractions!
The critical moment came for me around 7:30 Wednesday evening, when Paula told me that I was “back” at 7 cm, but my baby’s head was not in a position favorable to descend. We had to shift that head in order for it to put good pressure on my cervix to open it the last few centimeters. Paula pulled out more techniques from her bag-o-tricks. I walked the stairs – two at a time when ascending. I did side lunges. I duck walked. She had me lay in a certain position, supported by herself and Erin, through a few of the contractions. Through it all Paula and Erin watched me closely, and monitored the baby’s heartbeat. I don’t know what they were watching me for, exactly. Perhaps a sign that I had moved into transition. Perhaps my waters to release. I was talking quietly to the baby at this point, “move your head baby.” At some point, when Paula wasn’t around, I asked Erin if Paula had more “tricks” to use. Erin assured me that, yes, Paula had a very large bag of tricks. I needed to hear that. I was starting to worry that this wasn’t going to happen. My sister had also gotten “stuck” at 7 cm when she had her first baby in Washington state, and she had ended up with a C-section to get the baby out safely. I was also reassured by the constant monitoring of the baby’s heart. I would get very still and quite when Erin reached towards my stomach with the monitor. Heartbeat is good = all is well.
About 10:00 Wednesday evening, I hit a mental wall. I was sitting on the toilet, backwards – a pretty comfortable position to labor in, actually when I said in a quiet voice, “Paula, what are our options?” I was wondering – if I rested with an epidural, perhaps my body would have the energy to continue the process. This meant that I was thinking of heading for the hospital. Paula told me that the body might rest a bit…but labor would probably continue. I just wouldn’t be able to feel it. The pain was not what was bothering me – yes, it hurt – but I was still welcoming hard contractions as a clear message to the baby – “we are serious, turn your head!” What I was worried that my body would not have the strength to continue. Paula briefly mentioned Pitocin as an option at the hospital to, as above, give the baby the message that we were serious. Frankly, I was scared of Pitocin. I understand that pitocin contractions are quite painful. I had already gone through all this effort…I was afraid of an “unnatural” pain. The natural stuff I thought I could handle!
That interaction took about 2 minutes. Then Paula said, “I’ll check you in 20 minutes, THEN we can discuss options.” THAT is when I really kicked into gear. “I have 20 minutes!” That was a deadline I could understand. I moved into an altered state. I did all the tricks Paula had me doing before… but more. Anything I wanted to try, Erin and Paula encouraged. I talked, much louder now, to the baby. “Baby, you need to turn your head! Not only that, I want you to turn it face down, so that you come out “the easy way” once we get to pushing!” “The first thing I want to see is the back of your head. The first thing I want to do is reach down and touch the BACK of your ears”
I pulled up every scrap of spirituality that I could find.
My mom came and talked to the baby – THAT was when I started to feel something. Twinges, pangs – “keep talking mom, I think it’s listening!” I kept lunging, mom kept talking.
Paula,“Let’s check you.” “You are almost at 10 cm, the baby turned its head! I’m going to release the waters.”
“Oh my god,” I thought, “this might actually happen!!”
She released my waters – whoosh! I got back into the tub. “Erin, what might I expect now?” I was nervous about the next stage. “Many women experience about 20 minutes of rest.” Not me, apparently. The contractions came in hard and heavy right after she said that. I was GLAD! Let’s keep this thing moving. I was worried about my stamina. What if I did not have enough energy left to push?
12:14 am Paula checked me – “oh, let’s try some pushing!” she sounded a bit surprised.
I pushed for 2 hours but it felt like NOTHING. I was very surprised when someone told me later that they thought 2 hours was a long time to push – it really felt like nothing. The guided pushing that Paula did was awesome. She literally put her fingers into me and would say, “push my fingers out.” Then she would place them someplace else inside of me, “push here.” I was sure that she was guiding me in the most efficient pushing possible.
I felt some burning as the head crowned. But it didn’t bother me at all. “The baby is almost out!” Is what I thought when I felt that sensation. “I might be able to do this after all!” Hearing my husband’s voice saying the same thing gave me the energy I needed. “It’s almost out Molly!” “Another push or two” he sounded SO excited. This from my very calm and quiet husband.
I have to pause and paint a picture at this point. Many of my family members were in the room by then. Trying hard to stay out of Paula and Erin’s way. I think, with Paula’s staff and my family, we ended up with 12 people in the room. A record – Paula said later. I loved it. I was so tired I didn’t even notice them come in. But while the head was coming out I could hear my family cheering, then lulling back to quiet as I rested in-between contractions. The swell of sound carried me through the last few pushes.
There, the head was out. I looked down and saw the back of my baby’s head. I reached down and grabbed the back of my baby’s ear – just as I told him. J
I laid back…Paula was doing something down there – I’ll have to ask her later what she did. I heard my family, “the head is turning!” just like it is supposed to. I looked at Paula, “what should I do?” I wasn’t sure if I should wait for another contraction. “Push whenever you are ready!” was the response. I wasn’t waiting – one push and BAM, the baby was on my belly with a little hat and a warm towel over us before I could blink.
I looked at my husband – both of us so exhausted – hard to feel the big feelings we were so tired. “I did it!” I said to him. I guess I hadn’t really believed. Lucky for me my husband believed. Paula believed. Erin believed.
I did it.