In November of last year I walked into a local coffee shop and saw the couple I was to meet sitting off to the left. Kathy and Keller introduced themselves and they were just as lovely in person, as in the emails we shared. We began to chat and make small talk. It didn't take much time for them to get to the part of their story that led them to looking for a doula.
Kathy had a pregnancy less than two years ago, that ended in her water breaking much earlier than anticipated. As she told me about that day, and everything that transpired, I felt a lump begin to form in my throat. Her eyes welled up, then Kellers, and then mine. We were sitting in a busy coffee shop, talking about every parents worst nightmare, the loss of their child. As she spoke, the rest of the space went dark and blurry, and it felt like only us in the room. She told me about her beloved baby, with a strength that only a parent who has lost a child can. William was born far too soon, but to everyone's surprise, his parents would get more time with him then anyone thought; a cherished few hours with their little boy. That part, those words, told me so much about Kathy. Even in her very darkest moment, she had found a light.
I left that meeting, scouring my brain, for who would be their best doula fit. I don't usually take clients who have had losses, as I have had my own, and never wanted to bring that into a birth with me. I didn't want my baggage to ever be part of someone's experience, so I do my best to match those parents with another doula that I know. I called my business partner Lisa, and told her about Kathy, Keller, and William. We talked it through and she said to me, "I think you can do it. It sounds like they need you, not someone else. I can tell you already care for them." She was right, I did.
Over the next 5 months, we would get to know each other. I spent more time with them at meetings than other families. Not because I needed to, or felt obligated, but because I wanted to. I hug Kathy a little longer and a little tighter than other clients. When she text or calls me about her worries and concerns, we talk through them entirely. I wanted to make sure that she left every conversation feeling easier than when she entered it.
Kathy had an ideal pregnancy. It was perfect. She was one of those pregnant women that just glow. The kind you read about in books. Despite everything that had happened to her in the past, she wanted as limited interventions as possible during pregnancy and labor. She didn't want this birth to be overly medicalized.
On March 25th she sent me a very long text, some of which included the following: "The closer it gets, the more I think Keller and I could be dealing with some pretty intense emotions during labor and delivery, and I want to make sure everyone (hospital staff) is on the same page. I know you have our back, and I can't begin to tell you how comforted that makes us feel." I wanted to protect them as best as I could. I put out as much positive energy into the world, in hopes that certain providers would be on call from their practice on the night she went into labor. I spoke to a few nurses in hopes that someone I knew would be working that evening. I wanted them to let her pave her own way.
On April 2nd at 11:08pm, I received a call from Keller, saying that Kathy was having some sporatic contractions. Her due date was just a couple of days away and after asking a few more questions, I knew that this was probably the real deal. I suggested they try to rest, prior to the labor gaining some intensity. I laid out my clothes, and attempted to sleep, waking to check my phone every 15 minutes or so. (This is a standard doula thing. We don't sleep.)
At 1:40am on April 3rd, Keller called again. "This seems to be it!" I arrived to their home 30 minutes later and was greeted by their very excited fur babies, Gomez and Fester. I walked up the stairs to a smiling Kathy. We held eachother for a long time and then talked about how excited we were. She was having contractions about every 6 minutes at this point. She was doing her best to lay down and rest in between.
Kathy was in fantastic spirits. We were laughing and chatting in between contractions. I could tell that things were moving pretty fast, but I don't think that her and Keller had realized how quickly things were progressing.
At 3:30am Kathy needed hip squeezes to manage through the contractions. They were now coming around 4 minutes apart. My plan had been to keep Kathy home as long as I felt was safe. At one point in her pregnancy we went to the hospital. While it ended up being nothing, it did allow for me to see how triggering the hospital environment was for her.
At 4am I asked Keller to take the dogs out. I went back to Kathy and on her next contraction, she instinctually squatted. She let out this low moan, and with that, she panicked for the first time. I thought, "TRANSITION!". I suggested we head to the hospital. Kathy agreed and began to gather her things. We called for Keller, but he didn't answer. I asked Kathy if she had any pressure, and she told me yes. I helped her to get down the stairs, and grabbed Keller's keys from his dresser. He came in and Kathy said, "It's time to go!". I helped Kathy slide on her shoes, while Keller completed some tasks. I then told Keller to stop what he was doing and make his way to the car. He then grabbed a bag and an ice pack, and Kathy said "Keller! Now!" and she booked it out of the front door. I don't think he realized where we were in the process. (we laughed about this quite a bit after!)
On the drive to the hospital, I called her practice, and left a message with the answering service, to let them know we were on the way. This isn't normal, but I assumed niether of them were going to make the call. They were a bit busy speeding and laboring! A few minutes later, the lovely Jennifer Loomer, CNM called me back. I was so relieved to hear her voice. If I was going to pick anyone for Kathy, it would be Jen.
When we arrived, Kathy held onto my arm as tightly as possible. We found out that every room was taken, and that Kathy would be bunking in triage. She could have cared less. Truly the most easy going person, to ever have a baby.
At 4:47am, she had her first cervical check and she was 9cm dilated. The nurse felt a bit shocked I think during the check, that she was so far along. Kathy was saying please and thanking people for attaching monitors to her. She thanked her for the check for instance, and this was her face. She was so peaceful. She was doing everything she could to stay in a good head space.
At 5:58am, a hour later, there was no cervical change. Kathy and I whispered to each other for a little bit and 10 minutes later she was fully dilated.
Keller told her how proud of her he was and that she was "in more control" than he could have ever imagined. I could see the relief and excitment in his face. They were finally going to meet this little baby.
This is a picture of Kathy a hour into the pushing phase...
Have you ever seen such a beautiful and relaxed person during labor? Don't let this fool you, she was putting in so much work, this was hard, but she was thankful to be here. The whole room could feel it. Her contractions had spaced out a little bit, and there was some chatter about pitocin that was quickly shot down. I wanted Kathy to be able to trust her body. Her body was capable of making this baby and it was capable of getting it out.
Two hours into pushing, Keller said, "Oh Kathy! I see her. I see our baby!" He jokingly apologized a couple minutes later about how unfair it was, that she was working so hard and he got to see a little glimpse of her first.
Kathy guided the entire room. She told us when her contractions were coming, she told everyone where she wanted us to help hold her body, and she told us how encouraging her while she pushed, help to make her feel powerful.
Twenty minutes later, there was that moment. That moment where this woman had triumphed and all of her hard work, her concentration, her ability to stay calm and controlled, her leaning on the support in the room, led to Jen passing her, her screaming little girl.
Kathy looked at Keller and I with a huge smile and said "Thank you". Keller and I both cried, as we listened to Kathy talk to her sweet little girl about how she arrived into this world, surrounded by strong and supportive woman, and how lucky they both were in that moment.
Baby Nancy had arrived earthside, healthy and happy, at 8:29am.
Kathy, Keller, and Nancy, I will forever be touched and honored that you chose me to be in this moment with you. I have been overfilled with joy for you every moment since, and am welling up while typing this. I can't wait to see your family continue to triumph. Kathy you are the definition of a warrior.