Sitting down to right this on this day (February 14th) brings back a little nostalgia. I remember this time last year surprising my hubby with a “staycation” at a hotel and going out for a fancy dinner. He took me to this really expensive steakhouse and I remember feeling weird. My emotions were all over the place and then I couldn’t eat. I felt a little queasy and didn’t know why…so then I cried some more. Although he didn’t say it, my husbands thoughts were, “Really? She’s not going to eat? We’ve wanted to come here for a long time and now, she doesn’t eat?” I felt awful! Literally and figuratively. Turns out when we got a positive pregnancy test 3 weeks later, it explained it all. Now we look at our little boy, laugh and say, “Remember when you were mad at me cause I didn’t eat that expensive steak? This was so worth it!” So, what better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day then with writing our birth story?
The Birth Story of Harrison Thomas
October 31st, 2013
Two days overdue, I was still feeling wonderful. At 10 p.m. the night before, I noticed that I was having contractions about every 10 min on the dot. Not a big deal, I’d had Braxton Hicks for about the whole third trimester. The only difference was (as expected) my body was doing something different. They didn’t feel like regular BH contractions. There were more crampy feeling and more in my back. I knew it would be any day now. Kalen was on pins and needles just waiting, timing everything. It was so cute. By the time we woke up that morning they were coming about every 7 minutes. They weren’t extremely intense, but he told me when he left for work that if they got to consistently 6-7 minutes apart that he was just calling it a day and taking his leave. We knew at this point, three days past due date, that it would be the real deal.
By noon, they were still 7 min apart and I went out to do some grocery shopping. By 3p.m., although not timing them, I noticed they were closer together-about 5 minutes. What I noticed even more, however, was that in the middle of Trader Joes, I had to stop and breathe through it and grip the cart handle. Kalen calls and in the middle of our conversation I get another one. I tell him they are consistently 5 min apart and getting more intense. They didn’t hurt, but it was definitely different. He says that he had a feeling and was already about home. By the time I get home, we eat dinner, watch some tv, it’s around 10p.m now. Kalen’s timing them (pen, paper, watch-the whole nine yards), still 5 minutes apart. I am definitely in early labor. YES! We decide to call the midwife and give her a heads up. I want to labor at home as long as possible so she tells us to get some rest and labor at home until they are 3-4 minutes consistently for over an hour, then we can go ahead and head up to the hospital. I tested positive for Group B strep which is not harmful to me, but it did mean that I needed to get at least 4 rounds of an antibiotic in my system or it could pose some respiratory issues to Harrison as he passes through the birth canal. As much as I wanted to labor at home for as long as I could, Kalen and I wanted to find a good balance of not laboring at home too long so that, in case of a quick labor, I made sure to get all the antibiotic I needed. Kalen and I were believing and praying for a very swift labor and delivery and there was not a doubt in my mind that God could answer that prayer for us.
November 1st|3 a.m.
Early labor confirmed. Start the clock.
My contractions are intense enough that they are waking me up. I can’t sleep anymore. I have to walk around. Kalen can’t sleep either so he gets up with me. They are 3-4 minutes apart consistently for an hour, so at 5 a.m., I call my sister and tell her she might as well get up and get ready. My sister and Kalen were the only two people I was going to have in the delivery room. My sister was going to be taking pictures to document our birth, but she became so much more. She was my own personal doula. (more on that later)
I finish packing my bag, take a shower, shave my legs, put on some worship music, and we eat breakfast. When my sister and brother-in-law get to my house, we head for the hospital.
4.5 hours of labor
Due to the drive (contractions SUCK in the car, by the way), my contractions went back to about every 5 minutes. We get checked in to Harris Methodist Downtown, they monitor me and H for about 20 minutes, check me, confirm I’m definitely in early labor and tell me to go walk and get these contractions to pick up again. They want to check me again in an hour, so we decide to go walk. I’m definitely uncomfortable by this point and walking feels like I’m trudging through mud, but the good news is that I it just feels like a tough workout. I am still happy and strong and not in immense pain. I am actually taking this as a challenge: How hard can I power walk with contractions.
6 hours into labor
I am 2 centimeters dilated, 75% effaced, and my cervix is posterior. She says I have two options. I am definitely going to have this baby at some point today (so we thought) but no telling when. My midwife tells me I can go home and labor some more, or I can go ahead and get admitted. If you could only see into the future right? I was CERTAIN I was going to have him that day and I really thought my labor wouldn’t be that long. I thought, “Eh, he will be here by 3 p.m.” and so it didn’t make sense to me to drive all the way home. I was here now…let’s do this. We call our family and they arrive about noon and we socialize in the waiting room, have lunch, and walk some more.
I am feeling really worn out physically at this point. I have walked, walked, and walked some more. My contractions are very uncomfortable, my pelvis is so sore from walking around, and my back is hurting. However, if you need to know where anything is at Harris Methodist Downtown Fort Worth, I know the in’s and out’s of the place by now.
Skip forward six hours to 3 p.m.
Active labor|12 hours
Well, no baby. I am feeling a little disappointed, but my sweet husband is right next to me telling me it’s okay and that God knows the hour. I am feeling like me and God need to have a discussion about his time tables because I’m ready. I have now walked and walked. Squatted, labored on the ball, labored on the hospital bed, walked some more. I am so sore! And honestly, I’m very exhausted.
My midwife, husband, and sister tell me I need to get some rest, but really don’t want to rest. I want to have my baby. But, after convincing me that if my body doesn’t rest it will slow down, (which it did-contractions went from 4 minutes back up to 6) I reluctantly give in.
My amazing sister brought her essential oils and she is giving me the best treatment. She begins to rub my feet, my legs, my back, my arms, my hands. The whole room now smells of essential oils and the nurses loved it! My sister is such a servant, truly, and I know that she must be so tired like everyone else. But, she continues to rub all my sore areas and it helps me relax. I am trying not to feel down because I hear that family is now coming and going. I don’t expect them to stay around, but I’m upset because it meant I wasn’t progressing very fast and the reality of this long here at the hospital, in labor, with not much improvement, starts to weigh heavy on my mind.
Contractions laying down are about the worst thing next to laboring on the toilet (sorry for the visual) so resting is a little hard but I manage about two hours. Meanwhile, since I’ve been checked in, I have to get the antibiotics every 4 hours for an hour. This was the only time I needed to be hooked to anything. Otherwise, my birth was to be unmedicated, no intervention unless there was an emergency, laboring on my own (in and out of the tub), and ultimately-a water birth.
As I continue to labor on through the night, the word “exhaustion” isn’t quite describing just how tired I am anymore. The contractions are every 3-4 minutes apart and sheesh, they are intense! I am so ready to see my baby. The ache of wanting him to come is almost greater than the aches that continue to wrack my body. Surprising myself, I am still mentally and emotionally strong even though I feel my physical body weakening by the hour. I have moments of wonder where I am in awe of the female body and just how much God created it to withstand, and then I have moments where I just plain wonder how much longer I will be able to go. I know this is natural and so I continue to just take every one contraction, telling myself, “I don’t know how many more I will have, but I will never have that one again.”
19 hours of labor
My midwife comes in to check me. I am 7 cm, 85% effaced, but my cervix still has not moved forward. Both Harrison and I are fine. His head is locked and loaded in my pelvis, and even though this is becoming a very long labor, it is no cause for alarm if everything is progressing; even if at a turtles pace. I start realizing I need to just remain positive. That’s all I can do and I know God has it under control and I just need to focus on the here and now.
As our family continues to come and go, it’s obvious that we are still not having the baby for awhile. I now start to doubt myself and wonder if I’m doing something wrong. I start to doubt God too, because I don’t really understand why this should be happening. “Why is my labor so long?” This and many other questions begin to plague my mind and, whether I knew it yet or not, it began to takes it toll on my mental strength that had been keeping my ever waning physical body in tact. The natural says, “First baby=long labors.” But I knew that God could give me a swift delivery and from the day Harrison was conceived, every ounce of my being believed wholeheartedly God would do that; and that God could do that. This is why I start feeling some inner turmoil.
Now, everyone has gone home but later I find out that my Mother-in-law comes back and stays on through the night interceding and keeping many other prayer warriors covering this birth.
24 hours of labor
My midwife comes in to check me again. I am now on my third midwife. There are seven midwives at Harris Downtown. You meet with all of them during your pregnancy so that they can get to know you and you can get to know them because you never know who will be on call. Kalen and I look back on how perfectly God orchestrated the times that each one took their shift and are thankful. Every midwife was exactly what I needed for that particular stage of labor.
I am SO worn out, but amazingly, still going strong. I wasn’t upset by the pain of the contractions because if it’s pain that is productive, I’m good. However, after this long, I am beginning to really have to work at not feeling like I want to give up and wondering how productive this really is. It’s taking everything in me to remain mentally and emotionally strong. It’s now a fight to stay strong more than it is just a constant reminder to my mind and body like in previous hours. Kalen tells my sister that I just want some time alone with him. I knew that I was really in turmoil. Spiritually. If anything was becoming unbearable, it was feeling like God wasn’t with me anymore. In my head I knew he was, but not understanding why I was already in labor 24 hours really caused me grief. I started to feel angry at him. I was feeling abandoned. I knew that I didn’t have answers, but I knew that I needed to come back and focus. Align myself with Him again. Deeper than the feelings of turmoil was the knowledge that He was still with me. THIS needed to be my focal point and I needed to find rest again. Once my sister left the room, Kalen and I began to just release Heaven over my body and in the room. We began to worship and fill the room with thankfulness and praise. No longer were we trying to call Harrison forth. It was time to just be. This was hard, but the more we thanked and praised, and just meditated on Him, the more we felt our souls come back into balance.
Shortly after this, I find out that my Mother-in-law, who I affectionately call Milly, is sitting out in the waiting room. It’s 3 a.m. and she’s still here. When I get this news, something in me just knew I needed her. And now! I tell my sister to go get her and she comes back and immediately begins to love on me like she does so wonderfully.
I have been at peace and am feeling good. Feeling a little more balanced and I am now laboring in the water. I love the water. It’s so peaceful and really helps me relax.
A little while later, my midwife comes in and performs a check. I find out I am still 7 cm and my cervix has still not tipped forward at all. When I get this news, I feel any strength I had left (so I thought) escape my tired body and my heart actually feels broken. I begin to cry and say, “No, no, no…” over and over. I am hurting so bad and the news of having made no progress really takes its toll. Because his head was so low in my pelvis (which on one hand is a good thing) it was preventing my cervix from coming anterior (to the front); and in order to give birth, that has to happen. Also, because of this fact, my labor is heavy on my back and unfortunately, on my sacrum due to the posterior cervix. This REALLY hurts! And every time they have to check me I want to cry because of the effort it takes to get up around Harrison’s head that is lodged so low. My midwife tells me that there is a natural intervention that may help. This involves having to reach up behind our baby’s head, again, but this time actually pulling my cervix forward (stripping the membranes). Sound painful? Let me tell you, I don’t feel sane anymore at this point. I actually felt like I might pass out. I see white and then I see black begin to fade in and out.
I slowly manage to get up and go to the restroom with Kalen’s help and when I get back I decide to labor in the water. It’s already been a struggle to try and keep that place of peace I felt I reached, but with this news, my emotional and mental reserves are maxing out.
My water still hasn’t broken and my sister suggests having them break it. I am scared to do this because I know it will make the contractions much more intense and I don’t know if I can handle it. If you know my husband, and you know me, you will understand that he is just what I need, and what I need sometimes is a swift kick in the hiney and some blunt truth. He tells me that whether I like it or not, at some point, it’s going to get more intense in order for me to have this baby, and that unless I want to be here for ten more hours plus–I need to just suck it up and do it. I don’t have anything to lose, but everything to gain if it helps bring baby H sooner. This may seem harsh but I’m telling you, that’s just what I needed. I cried a little because emotionally I’m weak, but I knew he was speaking truth and he was really speaking to my spirit in that moment and calling it to wake up and be strong. Kalen was one of the biggest reasons I made it through that day next to God, my sister, and my Milly. He never left my side, never slept, barely ate, went through every contraction with me, kept me positive, kept me focused, rubbed my back, did hip squeezes, and tenderly loved me with a fierce strength through it all. I can’t even properly put into words what it was like, but he was like an angel and he was an anchor.
I tell Kalen I need to talk to his mom. When she comes in I’m laboring in the water and she begins to rub my hair and reassure me that I can do this and breaking my water is going to be okay.
Transition stage|25 hours
I have since moved from the tub back to the bed. This process in and of itself is exhausting. With every movement I get another intense contraction and I am so cold. When I shiver, I tense up, and hence have another contraction. My midwife breaks my water on the bed and IMMEDIATELY I hit transition. My contractions are 1 min apart lasting two minutes each time, and Kalen tells me after it’s all over that I used some expletives in those moments. We laugh because 1) I don’t remember and 2)Hey, shit happens! Yes, even nice Christian girls lose it once in awhile. Just being real. I am also having triple peaks at one point, meaning I have three, 2 minute long contractions in a row, without more than 10 seconds of rest. Since his head has not moved forward I am still having them on my sacrum and I begin to wonder if that’s where I will end up having him out of…(again, sorry for the visual.)
They also begin to monitor H every thirty minutes instead of hourly. They don’t tell me why, but I can put 2 and 2 together. They know that after this long, they need to make sure he doesn’t go into distress.
The biggest thing I loved about our nurses and midwives was that they never opened the door to let fear take over. They were informative, smart, and careful, but never talked negative or got in a hurry or freaked out about anything. This was one of the reasons I knew that I could trust them if they were to tell me, “We have to go to C-section and get this baby out.” I knew they would ONLY say that if it truly was an emergency.
27 hours of labor
Here we are again. They tell me I need to rest, AGAIN! I become angry because, if I didn’t want to rest before, I sure as heck don’t want to rest now! I WANT TO HAVE MY BABY! I am on midwife #4, Amy. Ahhhh Amy! I love her! She gently looks at me and says that a lot of times if a mom can just rest for an hour or two it can sometimes get them over the hump and their body refuels and they wake up ready to push. With as bad as the contractions are however, I can’t fall asleep. She tells me that she can give me a gram of something, that I don’t even remember the name of, and it will take the edge off just enough that I will be able to rest. Kalen finally tries to rest while I rest, as well as my sister. My mother-in-law stays up and continues praying and keeping all the other intercessors alert and praying. I am beyond grateful for these mighty warriors! Kalen can’t rest very well, because at this point, he begins to feel a little angry. At God. He spends about two hours on the couch hashing out with Him why, after everything we’ve prayed and stood on and believed that nothing seems to be happening.
Although, I’m able to rest, I can still feel the contractions, just not as bad. Unfortunately, when the pill began to wear off, it was not gentle. I immediately felt the contractions in full force again, but I was so loopy from the pill that I had no idea what was going on. I was so very disoriented and this is the worst feeling: to feel like you don’t have control.
29 hours of labor
Feeling a little more coherent with the world, Amy checks me. I am 8cm, fully effaced and…my cervix has tipped forward to “1” they said. PROGRESS! HALLELUJAH! I admit that in the moment however, this doesn’t feel like good news to me because I am so done. Meanwhile, Milly, Shel (sister), and Kalen are thrilled and celebrating. At this point it’s hurting so bad on my sacrum with every contraction. I remember thinking, “I might die here on the floor. Surely my body is going to break!” I look at Kalen and say, “Baby I am hurting so bad. I need you to hear me…I don’t know that I can take anymore of feeling this pain.” I make him look at me and understand because he knows what a high pain tolerance I have and so I really need him to understand that I really can’t take too much more. I tell him I want to ask if it’s too late for an epidural. You know I’m in pain if I say that. I HATE NEEDLES and I don’t like unnecessary intervention or drugs. Yet, I don’t know how much longer I can go on like this.
Amy knew how strong I was even when I didn’t. She tells me I can have one if that’s what I want, but to understand that everything about my birth would change. I would not be able to have a water birth. She reminds me this was my dream. She gives me freedom and time to choose, but she doesn’t just give in. She knew my emotions were talking. She KNOWS I can do this. She tells me that she will give me time to think about it, and when I look back, I remember that I never revisited it. It’s like I didn’t even think about it again. I just remember saying, “I want to get in the tub right now.” The only problem was, I was due for what felt like my 100th dose of antibiotics. It would be another hour until I could get in the water. I am feeling pretty pissy at this news. Kalen steps up again and tells me that as I’m having contractions my “sounds” sound like I am saying, “No, No, No”. He says, “This is too negative sounding, let’s actively make it positive.” So, with every contraction, we both begin to say, “Yes.” Wow what a difference! There was a huge shift in the atmosphere when we did this and I actually felt a little stamina come back…God bless this man!
30 hours of labor
The minute I finish the antibiotic, I basically strip down and run (well waddle more like) to the birthing tub. I never understood until that day what women meant when they said you will have no shame or have a care in the world about what parts of your body are bared and hanging out for all the world to see. I am not a super shy/overly modest person as it is, but I really didn’t care if I knew you or not and I guess that would be the first time I could say I went streaking. The tub was calling my name! I probably wouldn’t recognize every nurse that came in and out of that room, but I’m sure they remember me. Ha
Not more than 30 minutes in the tub and ALL OF A SUDDEN, as if someone jolted me, I felt Harrison’s head shift forward. He was no longer toward the back and I felt his head. I look forward at Kalen and say through kind of a laugh, “I feel his head, I feel his head!” Kalen, with eyes wide, says, “Really? Are you serious?” I shake my head and say I am certain. He is coming. In that moment, the pain felt productive again and I was like, “Let’s do this! I can do this!” At this news, Kalen goes to get our midwife.
November 2nd| 10 a.m.
31 hours of labor
I begin to push. This was my FAVORITE part. Why? A lot of reasons, but just to name two:
I was about to meet my son, and I was actually getting to rest in between contractions now. Holy Heavens what a relief!
I’m in the water by myself and I feel so powerful, excited, tired, sore, and beyond ready. I am on all fours and my midwife tells me to just give in to the feeling of pushing when it comes. My sister is right in front of me and told me later (cause I really don’t remember a lot of little things I said) that I cried, “Ow, ow I can’t push.” My sister responded, “Caitlin, push!” At which I responded with a really angry, “NO!” Thank God for sisters with thick skin, because she shoots back with , “YES!”She told me I kind of cowered and said sheepishly, “Okay…” I still laugh remembering hearing this a week postpartum because I didn’t recall it at all.
My midwife tells me to go ahead and flip over in the tub and I remember asking the sweet nurse next to me if I can grab her hand and then, while I’m pushing, checking on her to make sure I’m not hurting her. At this point, I am in the room, but feel like I’m having out of body experiences.
Kalen was behind me outside the tub, my sister was in front of me as well as my mother-in-law, and Amy was to the side gently coaching me on.
10:55 a.m. on November 2nd, 2013
31 hours and 55 minutes of labor
I gave birth to Harrison Thomas Dermott weighing 8 lbs. 11.5 oz. and 20 inches long!
The feeling in that moment catching my baby and having them thrust this BIG ol’ baby boy on my chest was so surreal and amazing. Along with the shock of the fact I did it and it was over was the shock of realizing this was not a 7.5 pound baby like even my midwives thought. I can’t put into words the joy, excitement, release, and relief I felt all wrapped into one moment. My mother-in-law told me that as I was crying and laughing I yelled out, “I just had a baby!!!” It was so awesome!
All I remember right then and there was shaking, not knowing what time it was, not even caring. I just remember holding my son, smelling him, and saying, “He smells like a baby!”
Kalen teases me because of the obsession I (along with just about every woman) have with the newborn baby scent. It’s like smelling Heaven on earth!
In that moment, it’s so surreal that every bit of pain I felt, exhaustion, frustration, doubt at times, was replaced in a matter of a split second with a rush of love, relief, unspeakable joy, and it was just…over. I was done. My baby was here, and all of that was now in the past. And, just like that, my new life was beginning!
And that’s our story. Thirty-two hours of labor for a moment so timeless that I will never be able to put words to.
I, in no way, write any of this from a negative standpoint and don’t post this for others to feel afraid of birth. It’s actually the complete opposite. My labor was hard, it was long, at times it was the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced, but this is what I went through. This is what happened. It’s our story. It’s real and through it all, it was so good. It was healthy. It was productive. It was just….slow.
My midwives called it “phenomenal”. And it’s true. It took me about a month or so to see it, and I admit, I had a lot to work out and hash out with God because I was a little angry, initially. I really believed I was going to have a quick and easy labor and for weeks following his birth and even in the development of writing our story, I didn’t understand why it had to be like that and I didn’t even want to ask him why because I didn’t just want a “bigger picture”. But the Lord so kindly began to show me how beautiful it was and how, through it all, He was there every step of the way. He held me, kept me and Harrison safe through the whole thing. He made me to do this. He made each of our female bodies able to handle this and it’s a miracle. Giving birth is a miracle! A miracle that happens about every minute of every day throughout the world. A miracle we often take for granted.
It has taken me so long to write this because I have been afraid. Afraid to let myself feel these things again. Afraid to revisit this. I realized that although I have walked through a lot with the Lord concerning H’s birth and come to a better place with it, writing this actually opened my eyes to see that there was a lot that I was trying to forget. I thought I was dealing better when really I was blocking a lot of it from my memory and calling it healing. I don’t want to do that because my heart isn’t angry. So why was I afraid? I was afraid because although I loved my birth and am not bitter about it, it was still an experience that hurt on many levels. It was an experience that made me feel like I wasn’t good enough to have a quick labor. I realized I was afraid to revisit all these details because it would be a Pandora’s box of emotions that I didn’t know how to handle. Feeling so happy to have my son, but wondering why I had to go through 32 hours of labor for it. Why did it have to be like that? Did I do something? Why didn’t you answer my prayers? Why does everything have to be a lesson? I felt afraid, as well, because I felt like if I wasn’t happy about it then that meant I didn’t love my son. I didn’t want to be misunderstood by any readers. Do I want to do 32 hours of labor again? Well no, but I am so happy and I would go through it all again to have my healthy, precious boy. Writing this has been a healing for me. Choosing to walk back through this and not being afraid to allow myself to feel the emotions again has brought me to a place where I can actually cherish all of my labor and birth. Not just some… I’ve had to write some and walk away when it became too much to process and feel again. But then I would come back, reread, and let myself feel again. And the truth is that every day God is showing me-in His kind ways-what that 32 hours did in the natural and the supernatural. He is showing me every day what the purpose was, not only in the moment I was going through it, but even yesterday I saw a correlation of that time in the hospital with a season Kalen and I are walking through in the present. And He is showing me things that are happening right now that mimics the “fruit of my labor”. Literally.
Kalen and I knew from the beginning that Harrison has a huge destiny (just like every child does), but God is showing us every day how much that long labor was tied in with that. It’s so easy to look at things negatively at first. The human mind immediately thinks, “If he has such a grand destiny then it means things will be swift and easy because of the favor he carries.” That was a part of my struggle. But the kingdom of God is an upside down kingdom. God doesn’t do things in terms of what our natural mind can comprehend. He began to show me the deeper connection of a powerful destiny and my labor. The things Harrison is called to and the favor that rests on him allowed him to stay in there without complication or sign of distress for 32 hours because it was not time to come yet and he was not going to force it. He found peace. He waited. And when it was time. He came. It’s positive. It’s beautiful. And, looking back, I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s amazing how your own experiences you once found hardship in can actually heal your heart in more ways than one.
Thank you for taking time to read about one of the best days of my life and allowing me to share my heart freely about a journey that grew me. I will never forget God’s faithfulness through it all and the ways that I am forever changed because of it. He had things to show me. As always, everything that we go through in life happens for a reason (even when that’s the last thing we want to hear in the moment) and sometimes it has something entirely different to do with the situation we are even in. They are opportunities to grow and to learn. Well, we grew and we learned and will have new knowledge that we will carry with us forever, along with an ocean-sized capacity to love our beautiful breakthrough that we made out of our love for one another; and our hearts were opened to see deeper into the Father’s Heart and embrace that in our lives.