One of the roles we play as doulas is to offer support and back-up for other doulas in our community. It is quite rare that we have to call in our back-up because we are committed to being on-call for at least 2 weeks before and after each baby's due date. However, I recently had the privilege of providing support to a fantastic family when baby Nora decided to make her debut 6 weeks early, and their doula had an out-of-state commitment. Here is their story.
Kathryn was our doula for the birth of our first child, Nora, born on October 21, 2016. Our daughter decided to make an early entrance (due date was November 27) and our original doula could not be there for the birth. Luckily, Kathryn stepped in to help. Due to only being 34 weeks, we were transferred from Corvallis to Riverbend Hospital in Springfield in the early morning hours of Oct. 20th. Kathryn arrived around 9am and spent time with us while we decided on a plan for induction. Dan (my husband) and I originally wanted to wait a few days for natural labor to start but because my membranes were ruptured and the baby looked great the doctor recommended an induction. We settled on starting pitocin at midnight and then increasing it at 6am. Kathryn went home and returned the next morning at 6am.
Contractions started around 7am. Kathryn, Dan, and I took a walk around the delivery floor, just talking and keeping things light. By 8:30am active labor started and Kathryn gave me a wonderful massage while I labored on, just breathing and relaxing between contractions. She suggested I move to a birth ball and continued to calmly help me breath and relax. She helped create a wonderful environment to labor in- lights were off, and the window shade was open to give natural light.
By 10:15am I was in transition. Kathryn made sure I was comfortable with cool towels and reassuring comments. She also helped my husband understand what was going on. When I requested an epidural she gently reminded me of the disadvantages of getting one too early (I had not been checked at all at this point). After the nurse checked me and said I was 7cm she completely supported my decision.
After receiving the epidural Kathryn, Dan, and the nurses helped me get comfortable in bed. I labored down from 11:35am to 12:30pm and then started pushing. Kathryn kept me focused and my husband calm with lots of reassurance that everything was going great and I was doing an awesome job. She also quietly took some pictures for us of the process like we had discussed. At 1:18pm Nora was born. She was 6lbs 4oz and perfect.
After my husband left to go with Nora to the NICU, Kathryn supported me through the delivery of the placenta. I was so thankful she was there because it took over half an hour and a lot of hard work to get it out. It wasn’t stressful and everyone was calm but if I had not had her support I would have been really confused.
After the birth Kathryn stayed with me until I was transferred to the mother/baby ward and checked on Nora in the NICU. Overall, I would describe my labor and delivery as fast and peaceful. Kathryn was a huge part of creating that atmosphere and we will always be grateful.
Amanda Zengel, Dan Magee, and Nora
We are the only species of mammal that doubts our ability to give birth. It’s profitable to scare women about birth. But let’s stop it. I tell women: Your body is not a lemon. -Ina May Gaskin
I believe there is power in normalizing this primal ability we have to birth. One way to do that is by sharing normal birth stories. So here is a beautiful one, in honor of my daughter’s first birthday.
At 9 days past my baby’s due date I was anxious to meet our 4th child, but at ease, knowing that I was at the very end of a beautiful journey. So, while my toddler and 3 year old took their naps that afternoon I rested as well. After school and nap times were over, my father-in-law came and took my two oldest boys deer hunting close by. In an attempt to distract my toddler from the fact that he did not get to go hunting with the other boys, I took him for a short stroll down our street. I felt damp, so when we got back to the house I went to the bathroom and it appeared that I had a very slow leak from my bag of waters. Within an hour or so my husband got home from work and the boys returned from their hunting excursion. While we ate dinner I mentioned that things might be starting to happen.
I was feeling more and more crampy (similar to the feeling of light menstrual cramps). After dinner when I went to the bathroom I noticed some blood so I decided to call my midwife, and give her a heads-up. She said it sounded like early labor and that it's hard to say for sure, but if she had to guess she would expect me to have my baby that night. She told me to call back in 3 hours, around 9pm, and give an update.
We made arrangements with our parents to have our boys stay with them for the night. While we packed all their suit cases and loved on them, our 5 year old son said, "I know what's going on, you’re going to have the baby." I told him, “Yes, it looks that way."
My sister had planned to witness the birth, so I called to let her know and she was very excited. She said "I'll be right there!" But I laughed and said, "No, please don't, there's nothing going on yet, and I don't want to be watched, so I'll let you know when to come."
My contractions still felt like cramps but were beginning to feel more distinguished, one from another. I sat on the birth ball a little. And finished folding some laundry before calling my midwife around 9:30pm with a boring update. We went to bed and tried to sleep. As we were getting ready for bed the contractions began to change into the real deal, and when I laid down they became stronger. I began timing them when there was an obvious consistency. They were about 8-10 minutes apart. My husband fell asleep while I watched "Parks and Rec" and rested while timing my contractions. I slept from about 11pm-12am, and my contractions basically stopped during that hour. But when I woke they were so strong that I felt the need to get up and work through them. I kneeled with both knees on the floor and my body on the birth ball and watched TV in our room between the contractions to stay relaxed and distracted. Soon they were getting more intense and I no longer felt like I could keep track of timing them (to make sure I didn’t get too close to having the baby before I called the midwives), so I woke my husband to ask for his help with timing. I walked around the house, and our back yard, paced our room, and look up at the starry night sky out our bedroom's open window.
At about 2:30am, when my contractions were about 2-3 minutes apart and lasting over a minute I called the midwife and told her it was probably time to head over. My sister got to our house before the midwives. I greeted her with a smile and talked for a bit. My contractions basically stopped, for about 30 minutes while everyone arrived and got settled-in. They took my vitals and listened to baby’s heart. I told them I was going outside for a walk to get things going again. As soon and my husband and I got outside my contractions began again. My husband was so sweet. He held my hand and didn't want to us to get too far from the house in case we needed help. My contractions were once again long and strong and close together. During contractions I would lunge or squat with my arms around my husband's neck.
When we came back in the 3 ladies were just watching a show in the living room. My husband told them things had picked back up. I asked if it was an ok time for me to get in the bath, they said, "of course!" When I got in the bath I went into another world. I did some heavy laboring in there. At one point the midwife joined us and monitored baby's heart rate. My husband kept falling asleep, but never left my side. I sort of slept between contractions too...but they were almost constant. I had a routine to get me though, of shaking my head and breathing out loudly as I shook my head towards my left shoulder. After probably about an hour, I got out of the tub and came into our room where the midwives were getting things ready for baby's arrival. My sister also came in and quietly sat next to our bed.
They had put a shower curtain liner, covered by a soft sheet, at the base of our bed. So I kneeled down on it, and rested my head on our bed during contractions. Periodically, during the last couple hours of labor, in my bedroom, the midwives would listen to baby during contractions to make sure it wasn't stressed at all. Never once did the baby seem stressed. They added some pillows under my head and that felt nice. They kept giving me drinks of water and quietly encouraging me. The second midwife that was with us was also a doula. They both tended to me with such loving care and empathy.
My contractions were very intense and hard to work through, but were spread out. I believe I finished dilation in the bathroom, but was waiting for the urge to push as baby’s head slowly worked its way down the birth canal. After several more contractions I felt a little more pressure and felt like I should push...not a major urge, but I felt like it was time. So I did some small pushes during a couple contractions. Then a little harder on one and my water broke. My poor husband was kneeling behind me, performing the hip squeeze that I had taught him, so he got soaked with amniotic fluid. I told him "I am so sorry!" And he laughed and said "it's ok babe! Really, no big deal!" It was a happy, light hearted moment; I think everyone laughed.
I pushed, with some reservation, during a few contractions with my right leg up and to the side, in a kneeling lunge. Then I decided to get up on the bed. My husband got up there with me and sat behind me. It was such a comfort to feel his strength and love behind me. I was hesitant to push and told the midwives I hadn't been hesitant with my last two babies, although with all of them having been born in the hospital I had been told when and how to push, instead of just listening to my body and not being rushed. So this was a little different. Finally something inside me felt like it was time and I started to really push, holding my knees up toward my chest. But my hips were very uncomfortable in that position, so I changed to a side lying position as I pushed that sweet baby out.
The midwife was there to catch the baby, but as I felt her emerge I instinctively reached down and pulled her up to my chest as I laid my head back on my husband in pure ecstasy. It's all so overwhelming. Like nothing else in this world. My husband and I, overcome with emotion, quietly sobbed and held our child together, lovingly welcoming her into the world. It did not even cross my mind to check the gender of our child. It was just our baby and we loved it an overwhelming amount regardless of its gender. After about 5 minutes I lifted her leg gently and opened my eyes just long enough to see that she was a girl, and I quietly said to my husband, "it's a girl" and he said "really? Are you sure?" So he and the midwife checked together, and, indeed, it was a girl. They asked us if we had a name for her, and I told them "her name is Jane."
Jane (gift from God) Kathryn (pure heart) King was born at 7:43am on Tuesday, October 6, 2015 (10 days after her due date). She weighed 8lbs. 4oz. and was 21” long. 13.5” head, and 13.5” chest. There was a knot in her umbilical cord, just like her brother, Heston, but that didn’t cause any problems; she was perfectly healthy in every way.
We were so blessed by her peaceful entrance into this world and are forever grateful to the incredible midwives that cared for us.
"Words can't express the amount of gratitude I have for Katie and her services. Everything about my second birth was perfect - and she was with me the entire time. Even my husband agrees that it was one of the biggest blessings during that time of our life. Thank you Katie for your calming presence, prayers, and support to help make Hailey's birth experience so amazing!!" Ashley
"Kathryn attended the birth of my first child and was such a peaceful calming presence from the months prior to the months following the birth and every single bit in between. She was accessible any time I needed her and answered all of my questions no matter how silly. I will absolutely have her there for my next child whenever that may be." Krystal
"From our first meeting with Kathryn (Katie), I felt so much calmer and stronger about my birth. During labor, just knowing she was in the room had a confidence-building effect. My husband adds, she has a calming presence and clearly cares deeply about the people she's helping. We are so happy she became part of our lives!" Amanda
"Katie was our doula for our 3rd child. I wouldn't have changed anything about my birthing experience. She was calm, very helpful, listened to everything that not just I wanted but also my husband. She was able to explain things that the nurses were talking about and help us stick to a birth plan that we wanted. She came and checked in on us after we were home and was able to give advice and help with breastfeeding as well. We had a great experience with Katie." Lauren
"Katie was beyond helpful with my sister's birth experience. She has vast knowledge and handles difficult situations with ease." Kassy
"Katie, you made my daughter's birth such a precious, peaceful, and joy-saturated experience...words cannot express how grateful I am for your empowerment, compassion, and knowledge. My heart is full when I remember the redemptive journey of her birth and your key role in it. Thank you!" Abby