This is a wonderful story, sent to me by Nathan and Kate Bechtold, detailing the recent birth of their son. It is a really engrossing read, and I love the way that it is written by both parents -- it is somewhat unusual to read a father's detailed account of the birth of his child, especially intertwined so beautifully with the mother's telling. What a sweet, illuminating format! You can read more about the birth, and see additional photos on Nathan and Kate's blog, The Ozark House. Thanks for sharing, you two!
This is the story of how our boy, Saylor Jack Bechtold, made his grand entrance into the world. Here’s how it all went down…in our words (Nathan in plain text, Kate in italics)
His due date had come and gone, and for eight days, we wondered, When? Kate was having frequent Braxton-Hicks contractions, and she was doing all the things you’re supposed to do to help “induce” labor naturally – including lots of yoga!
The morning of Friday, February 18th, Kate woke up at 4AM with very slight “gas cramps.”
They were about 30 minutes apart, but I wasn’t convinced it was anything, because it really did feel like, well, gas. So I got up, and got a bath and they wouldn’t go away, in fact they started coming a little faster – every 15 minutes or so. So I started getting excited.
She told me about them, so I told her to go back to bed and see what happens.
Once I woke up later, by 8AM, they were gone! Frustrated, I told Nathan, “This is gonna be a stupid day.” I figured it must have just been gas after all. It was okay, I thought, because Nathan’s parents were coming into town that day anyways, and I had lots to do!
My parents arrived around 12:30, and around that time, Kate’s “gas cramps” started again. They were gradually getting stronger, but not much, so my mom suggested they go on a walk, to see what would happen.
Before the walk, I called Kelly (our midwife), and she told me to let her know if they were 10 minutes apart for two hours straight. On the walk, I had my watch with me, and I timed them: they were ranging anywhere from 4-10 minutes apart.
We called Kelly again, and she urged Kate to drink more water and take a bath – to make sure it wasn’t false contractions from dehydration. She drank some water and then, before dinner, Kate and I went shopping for a few things, and the cramps (contractions) gradually strengthened as we walked.
At this point, I never had any pain – just kind of an urge to use the bathroom.
The contractions continued through dinner – still not painful, and kinda sporadic. So Kate hopped in the bath…
…to clear my mind – I couldn’t hang out with anybody right then. I was trying to prepare myself to be in labor, if this was really it.
I called Kelly while Kate was in the bath, and she said to give it two more hours. If things intensified, she was coming over (she lives two hours away). If they calmed down or stayed about the same, we’d just keep waiting it out without her. “In the meantime,” she said, “I’m getting some sleep, and Kate should too.”
Not long after my bath, I called my parents (in South Carolina), and told them to start heading this way. I wasn’t sure it was labor, but could only think about the fact that I wanted them to be there. So if by chance it was labor, they should come now.
Within that two hour span, Kate began actually having to focus through the contractions. She would lie on her side in bed, and I would coach her, helping her relax and breathe.
I walked into the living room at one point, and Adrienne asked “So what do you want to do now? Play a game? Watch a movie?” And right then a strong one hit me, and I realized that wasn’t gonna happen. I was 75% sure I was in labor at this point.
So after about three of those – which felt like pretty strong menstrual cramps – I was 100% sure, so I called Nathan’s siblings (in Texas) and told them to come on up to Missouri.
The two hours were gone, and things had definitely advanced, so I called Kelly. It was about 10:00PM. I told her what was up, and she said she was on her way. I hadn’t yet filled up the birth pool, and she suggested I get going on that. Well, our water heater is very small, and that birth pool takes a lot more water than I thought! So I would fill it until we ran out of hot water, and then wait for 30 minutes. Then fill it some more. Then wait some more. It didn’t have enough water in it until almost 1:00AM.
I had no idea any of this was going on – I was in such a deep, almost hypnotic, state – trying to relax through each contraction. The room was dark, candles were lit, I had my “baby” playlist playing softly on the ipod. Things were very peaceful.
I was still helping her relax and breathe, but it was growing more difficult for her to relax as the contractions grew stronger. Kelly arrived around 12:30AM (now Saturday, February 19th). She checked Baby’s heartbeat – it was great – and felt around Kate’s tummy and detected that Saylor was no longer posterior, but had turned to the ideal birthing position. Good news. Then she left the room for a bit after a few encouraging words.
I noticed that Kate was really losing her concentration at this point, and not responding well to my attempts to get her to relax – she said the contractions were becoming too strong. Kelly, listening outside the door to Kate’s moans, brought in some clary sage essential oil, which I rubbed on Kate’s feet. That seemed to help some (and smelled really nice).
I began to feel the contractions “taking over” my body. They were these huge rushes. Before that, they had been like strong menstrual cramps: they hurt, but were bearable. Now they were like something I had never felt before – very powerful.
In the meantime, my mom was bringing in pots of boiling water to add to the birth pool, which Kate would soon be entering.
My memory of everything from this point on is pretty foggy. I guess I was just “in the zone” and not really focusing on anything else happening around me.
Kate was making frequent bathroom trips, with multiple contractions while sitting on the toilet, which made me nervous (I guess I just imagined our child falling out into the toilet bowl all of a sudden).
Finally, at around 1:30AM, Kelly suggested Kate hop in the pool. Well, not “hop”…
That’s when things REALLY got started! It was not physically possible for me to relax through the contractions anymore. I was vocalizing, but that’s about all I could do. I don’t mean I was out of control – it’s just that I had to start doing whatever my body required of me during the contractions. Whatever came naturally. *sings* “Doin’ what comes naturally!”
She thinks that she got scary at that point – roaring or whatever some women say they do – she wants me to say that she was scary, like a lioness. But she wasn’t scary (although I did tell her at the time that she was like a sexy lioness queen). She was strong! With every passing minute, I became more amazed at her tenacity, and the fact that she wasn’t asking for, or even mentioning, pain-killing drugs! She was just doin’ work!
Kelly never does an internal exam to check your dilation, unless you ask for it. I never asked for it. So we never knew how far I was dilated. Her reasoning is that she doesn’t want to introduce unnecessary bacteria into the birth canal. But what I didn’t know at the time was that Kelly was listening, outside the room, guessing how far I was dilated by the sounds I was making!
And she was probably pretty correct. At one point, when the contractions were getting long, strong, and right on top of one another, Kate looked at me with either guilt or surprise (or perhaps just honesty), and said “I think I just pushed a little bit.” So she was in transition, I knew.
I also had said “I don’t know how much longer I can do this.” And that was the “self-doubt” emotional signpost mentioned in “Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way” that lets you know you’re transitioning.
And I think it was about that time that Kelly had guessed Kate was at an 8 or a 9.
Kelly came in again, and I told her “I don’t know why I did it – I just did it. I felt like it was time, so I started doing it.” She said, “Well good! That’s great!”
At that point, I asked her to stay in the room.
Then I spent a little while “bearing down”…not completely pushing, but sorta halfway, because my body simply had to do it.
It was around 2:30 or 3:00AM then.
I couldn’t tell you if I did that for ten minutes or two hours. It felt like days. I was on my hands and knees, and at some point…
…my water broke.
I was applying counter-pressure to Kate’s lower back when she would push.
Do we want to talk about how I pooped in the pool?
But eventually, the angle she was sitting in kept me from applying counter-pressure very easily. Kelly asked Kate if she wanted me to get in the pool. She did. So I did. The serious pushing started then.
I felt like it started earlier, but I’m not the one to ask. Anyways, that was around 4:00AM.
I don’t remember much, here.
Kelly left the room for 10-15 minutes when I climbed in the pool, and in the meantime, Kate was workin’.
Kelly came back in, and we both encouraged Kate as she pushed with her contractions.
I remember kinda whimpering in between contractions, kinda whining about how tired I was.
I was sitting down, leaning against the pool wall, with my legs apart and knees bent. Kate was sitting between my legs, leaning against me, with knees up.
Where my memory gets clear is when Kelly said “With the next push, I want you to reach down and feel his head.” I did!
Me too. Kinda cool, kinda weird.
I got my second wind at that point, and didn’t really notice the pain or tiredness anymore, because I was so excited.
Then the contractions slowed, and Kate was waiting several minutes in between each, to push.
It was nice because I needed a break, but annoying because I was so close, and ready to meet my baby.
Then all of a sudden, Kate pushed a couple of times, and there was a baby in the water.
Well, with more detail – I gave one hard push, and his head was out, which caught me by surprise. Then with one more seemingly effortless push, he just slid out!
I let out a yell because I was so surprised that there had been an actual human in there (my tummy) the whole time! It may seem weird, but for some reason I was in denial during the whole pregnancy that an actual human baby would come out at the end.
I was the first to notice that he was a boy. I figured everyone else had seen it, but as soon as he was born, Kelly gave him to Kate, who put him on her chest, so nobody saw it, except me!
We could say who was in the room at the time: Obviously the two of us and Kelly, and then Adrienne (housemate and friend), Dixie (Nathan’s mom), and Barry (Nathan’s dad).
Also, when he came out, I started bawling. It was so unexpected – I mean, I didn’t expect that I would cry, but I also just didn’t expect any of it. It was like a real-life magic trick! Also, when people talk about God being in the room when a baby is born – they’re right.
The cord was around his neck when he came out, but Kelly quickly unwrapped it. He cried really good and started breathing right away, without any help.
I cut the cord – not waiting very long, because it had stopped pulsating pretty quickly. Kelly checked Baby Saylor (though we hadn’t named him yet), then took him from Kate to dry him off and hold him. Kate stood up, delivered the placenta, and stepped out of the pool (leaving me sitting in…something of a mess).
We all got cleaned up, dried off, and quickly into bed. Photos were taken, tears were shed, joy abounded. Kate and Saylor went to sleep, and I stayed up, overcome by such an amazing experience.