If I could give you a glimpse into our life- specifically, where we’ve been, what we’ve come from, and what our life is on a daily basis- I think you might be incredibly surprised. There are occasions when I think of it and the sheer craziness of it all leaves me in awe. It will never cease to amaze me the twists and turns of life and that in which we are capable of arising from…and, how when things are truly meant to be, they will be…even when it seems the world is rotating in another direction, trying to catapult you opposite of where you’re trying to go.
I look back on the past couple of years, perhaps more specifically this last year- not just in MY independent life, but rather OUR life as ‘Tara and Glen’- as the couple, as a family, as birth professionals and business owners- in every sense of ‘US,’ this has been an incredible year…filled with ups and downs, overwhelming highs and gut-wrenching lows. A marriage in September, not of just a man and a woman but the joining of five lives and the making of a blended, true “his, hers, and ours,” getting pregnant in October, miscarrying in November, and getting pregnant again in December. Whew! With January 2011 came a new calendar year and immediate trials in our professional life- a warped, blindsided, solitary confinement of sorts. A true testament of Glen either bowing his head just to make life easier, or standing up and hunkering down in what he believed in and the kind of care he wanted to provide, and in turn, wearing the Scarlet Letter as punishment. And so he wears it proudly.
Gain and loss, shunnment and perseverance, love and growth and lessons learned, and the underlying theme to our life- Birth- prevailed. The birth of change. The birth of new things. The birth of growth. Personally and professionally and all of it intertwined. We celebrated our first wedding anniversary together on September 4th 2011 , and the very next week (as I write this, just 5 days ago) we would welcome a new baby girl, Adria, into our family.
As is most things in life, my pregnancy with Adria was nothing like what I had already experienced or expected it would be. Her birth was fittingly true to this as well, and so I want to share it… It might just be another birth story to some, but it is our story, and HER story, and it means more than I could ever express with words…
On Tuesday, September 13th, I was attending a Childbirth Educator training. I had been cramping in the morning but went anyway. Over the course of an hour it got progressively more uncomfortable and I found myself not able to get comfortable in my seat or even concentrate on what the educator was saying. It might as well have been in Chinese…the words coming out of the lady’s mouth and topics being discussed were just blurbs of nothingingness floating into my ears. I texted Glen to see what he was doing and to tell him that I thought I should probably head home- that all of a sudden contractions had come out of nowhere and my back was THROBBING. He texted back and said he was just about to start a 90 minute surgery. Great.
I headed to the car. I was in there about a minute, got another contraction, and this time, vomited with it. As soon as I gained my composure, I called Tonya to ask her if she could meet me at the house. I didn’t want to be alone for the next couple of hours until Glen was able to get home. With each contraction I would vomit. “Why don’t you just pull over to the side of the road,” she asked? I had been vomiting in the console of the car, and did not want to stop. “No, I just want to get home.” Every contraction was a triple whammy- the actual contraction, the intense back pain, and the violent vomiting that accompanied.
I got home and immediately drew a bath and got in. The water helped, but only ever so slightly. Tonya got there within 5 minutes. I don’t remember the entire ordeal very crisply, but I do remember, in no chronological order I am sure, alternating between hands and knees, back and forth between the bath and the shower, attempting to find some relief. The hot water did feel so good, but would eventually cause more problems than it helped to alleviate. Lesson learned? Don’t let me run my own bath or shower. Or Doppler myself.
“WHERE is Glen? Is he almost here? Can’t he get someone to fill in for him and come home now?” These are questions I kept asking Tonya. She called Glen and no, he was right in the middle of the case and had to finish.
“Maybe we should call someone. Do you want me to call someone? Who should I call?” Tonya would ask.
“No, no, no, I’m fine.” Or, “I don’t think so.” Or, “I don’t know…what do you think?” I’m not sure which is worse- my stubbornness or my indecisiveness.
“Yes, we should call someone. Who would you like me to call?”
“I don’t know. Do you have a preference?” I asked her as if it were her birth. I didn’t want to be bothered with thinking.
I was half-oblivious, wishy-washy, and indecisive. Me in labor.
About this time I started to shake like a leaf, in addition to the puking which had continued. Likely a combination of a few things- the intensity of it all, dehydration from the vomiting and the toll it was taking on my body, and probably the biggest factor of all- my temperature rising from the hot bath and shower I had essentially been camped out in.
A midwife colleague got there and Glen got there not very long afterward. My temp was elevated and the baby’s heartrate was elevated as well. I got out of the bath, IV fluids were started, and I got into any position I could that would help the baby turn from the posterior position she was in.
To make a long story short, that day or night was not the labor or birth of Adria. Things would putz out. And then start again. And putz out. Perhaps slightly frustrating, but the good news was the rest and the position change that the baby would make…which made a world in difference in how and where I felt the discomfort. So we took what we were given and we were thankful.
True labor would come Thursday.
Around 5pm on Thursday I started contracting. Although they were strong enough to notice and fairly regular, they were certainly not anything to write home about. I very often tell the expectant moms who attend my childbirth class to ignore contractions…put them in the back of your mind and carry on with your business as usual…until you come to a place where you find that they have gotten so intense that it is simply impossible to ignore them any longer. They are DEMANDING your attention. I laugh at this, with hindsight being 20/20… At 7pm I yelled down to Glen, who had been watching TV with Candice, “Glen?!”
“Yeah?” he asked.
“Could you come here?” I was slightly irritated.
He gets up from the sofa and comes upstairs to our bedroom, where I was.
“WHAT have you been doing?” I asked him. I knew full-well where he had been and what he had been doing. He had been within my sight the entire time.
Innocently he says, “I’ve been on the couch watching TV with Candice.”
“Well, WHY haven’t you even checked on me?!,” I asked, as though it were completely normal for me to expect to be ‘checked on’ for no apparent reason. My eyes started to well up with tears. I looked away so he wouldn’t see. I was slightly irked and being emotional for no apparent reason, and I wanted him close.
I knew then that I was going to be having a baby soon.
Candice left to go home for the night and to do homework, and from that point on, Glen stayed with me. He quickly realized that I was contracting every 2-3 minutes. I was completely fine, completely normal, and very excited in between contractions. At this point though, the intenseness was now noticeable. With every contraction, I would rush back over to lean on the bed from wherever I had wandered to, and beckon Glen to caress my back. It would be over and I would go back to what I had been doing- in between contractions, putting on my make-up. I couldn’t fathom being unpresentable for meeting Adria and looking a mess in our birth pictures. So a little eyeshadow here, a contraction. Finish up that eye. A contraction. On to the next eye. A contraction. Ok, mascara. A contraction. I got it done in bits and pieces. The beauty of contractions is that each one goes away. I was actually enjoying this.
After a half hour of Glen watching me do this and have contractions every 2-3 minutes like clockwork, Glen started to say to me that he thought we should call someone ( one of the midwives), that the contractions were really close. I think he was getting nervous. I still felt fine. And further, I’m stubborn. I was fine and I didn’t need an audience.
“We can call someone when I’m in transition,” I told him.
“TRANSITION!?! No! If we wait that long, they’ll miss it!”
In my mind- I had everyone there that truly NEEDED to be there. Him and I. It was all I needed anyway- Me to birth this baby and him to support me in doing so and making sure things were safe. No place to go, no rushing about. Quite simple really.
Then, in the matter of this 5 minute conversation of him insisting we should call someone, I had a couple contractions and noticed the intensity had increased a bit and I now I felt the need to get some relief by doing something other than what I had been doing. I knew it would be a good time to get in the water. Knowing what I was feeling and that I was progressing, the next time Glen mentioned calling the midwife, I reluctantly said, “Fine. Alright. Ok. Go ahead and draw me a bath and call.”
At 7:45pm he called Jennifer, one of the midwives I work with, and I got into the tub. I still felt great. Just uncomfortable for the brief duration of the contraction, and great in between. I would end up only getting out of the water twice, briefly to pee, and would give birth to Adria 3 hours and 43 minutes later.
A few weeks prior to labor, I had told Glen that I did not want to be “checked” during labor. I didn’t want anyone asking me if I wanted my cervix to be checked or be bothered with it. Dilation meant nothing to me. I didn’t want to be working hard and then be told I was 3 cm. I didn’t want to have to think or worry or obsess about a number that really didn’t mean a whole lot and subject myself to having the intrusion.
And so, perhaps one of the best things about my labor and birth with Adria is that my cervix was never once checked. It didn’t need to be. I had said to Glen as I got in the tub, “I’m about 5cm.” Then later I would say to him and Jennifer, the midwife, “I’m about 6-7.” I had no TRUE knowledge of that. I was telling them what I thought, based on how I felt. What a concept!
And so I floated and swayed and rocked in the water through labor. Glen would hang alongside the tub and provide me his pinky…not his hand, but just his pinky. I didn’t like the firmness of holding his entire hand, but preferred just hanging on to his little finger while I floated through a contraction. One finger afforded me the ability to float and rock and sway through the currents however I wanted, maneuvering however I wanted, without the constraint of being tethered to his hand. I would begin to feel another one coming on and ask for his pinky. Even through labor, I could see the comedy in this.
And so I labored by candlelight, in the water, with him by my side, my Pandora station playing various favorite songs in the background. Candice and Tonya and Jennifer remained in the background- there as support in their presence but not intrusive. This scene rang very much true to my personality- my independence intact but yet appreciative of the optional support that surrounded me. Glen may have been barricaded from me by the bathtub, but in my mind I very much needed him there and just by his presence alongside me, he soothed me.
Labor for me was only intense for about 45 minutes. And even though it was intense for but a brief moment in time, I still looked to my support people for support.
“Say something nice to me,” or “Say something positive,” I would say.
“You’re getting so close.” “You’re almost done,” both Glen and Jennifer said at one point during a contraction.
I opened my eyes and glaringly looked at them and very adamantly said, “Don’t tell me I’m getting ‘so close’ or that I’m almost done. You have no idea. I could be 4cm for all you know!” And so they laughed at me. Glen muttered something about how between the two of them they had ONLY probably witnessed a few thousand births. What did they know anyway?
It was important to me to deliver and ‘catch’ the baby on my own, with minimal interference, so long as everything was well. I didn’t want anyone else’s hands down there, doing unnecessary things and distracting me. Glen and I had talked about it and I had told him that I wanted to deliver the baby’s head and then have him help me with her shoulders and body. Funny enough, it ended up being the opposite- he helped me with her head, and I brought her up from there. I remember feeling her head for the first time, as she started to crown. Glen felt as well. I looked at him and said, in an almost giving-him-permission sort of way, “You can do whatever you have to do.” So he reached down and supported my perineum and helped me ease her head out. Then with my hands guiding her, I pushed the rest of Adria out into my hands and brought her up from the water, straight to my chest.
In that instant, life seemed surreal. Not just from enduring labor and experiencing the birth of our baby, but the culmination of our life and the transformative rollercoaster of a year that we had lived through. WOW. Did we really just have a baby? YES! We just had a baby. We had wanted this baby from day one. Her birth meant so much- represents so much- in so many ways. Adria Kinley Elrod had arrived- brought into this world by our own hands, the way we wanted, and the way we believed to be the best and the safest.
Made at home, born at home. Beautifully and safely.