Monday, July 9, 2012

Welcome to the World: Luther's Birth Story

Kelli and Luther
Luther Michael Oliver: Born June 3, 2012, 7:33pm, Meriter Hospital (Madison, WI) | Photo: Jenny Lindley, CHES, AAHCC, CD (DONA)

Luther was already nine days overdue when Piercen and I went to my midwife appointment on Thursday, May 31. The midwife found that I was four inches dilated and 90% effaced. She was quite confident that Luther would come within the next couple of days, but said that if he did not come by the forty-two week mark, they would need to induce him with either Pitocin or by breaking the waters. Wanting very much to avoid induction, we agreed to have my membranes swept in the hopes of triggering labor, and then headed home.

Nothing occurred until Saturday morning, when I started having period-like back pains. I had already gone into false labor twice in the month prior, so Pierce and I just assumed this was a similar occurrence and decided to go about our day. We headed down to the Dane County Farmer’s Market and then walked down State Street, pausing when I had a contraction and continuing on once it ended. Contractions continued throughout the rest of the day, and we went to bed that evening half expecting to be woken up by real labor.

Sunday morning arrived after an uneventful night. Like the day before, contractions started in the morning but didn’t change in intensity or duration. Wanting some distraction from the back pain, I suggested that we drive over to the Olbrich Botantical Gardens. We spent a couple of hours strolling around the grounds with Pierce rubbing my back during each contraction. Returning home, we decided to take a nap; about 30 minutes later, I awoke to hear a small popping sound. Guessing this was my water breaking, I woke Piercen up and rushed to the bathroom as warm water started running down my legs.  Pierce helped me to get into the shower as the intense contractions began. I stood in the shower with the hot water hitting my back for a few minutes, but had to move to my knees as the contractions started to come one right after the other with little to no break. After fifteen minutes of this, Piercen called the midwife, and she suggested leaving for the hospital immediately since the contractions were so intense and so close together. After the next contraction, Pierce helped me out of the shower and into some clothes; it seemed like every other minute I had to drop to my hands and knees in order to handle the contractions as Piercen rubbed my back. The walk to the car and the ride to the hospital are a blur to me now, but I remember having serious doubts about my ability to continue with labor without any pain medication (according to the Bradley Method curriculum, self-doubt is a normal part of the transition stage and is embraced as a sign of progression).

At the hospital, Pierce got a wheelchair and took me up to triage. At this point, I had to use every ounce of concentration on relaxing my muscles in order to deal with the agonizing sensations radiating through my lower body. Once in triage, a nurse strapped the intermittent monitor to the top of my belly (short-term monitoring was required by the hospital for those planning on participating in the water birth study). The nurse was supposed to leave the monitor on for twenty minutes, but Pierce says she only left it on for about ten minutes as it was quite clear that I was deep into labor. I later found out that I was already close to nine centimeters dilated when we arrived at the hospital. 

After triage, they moved me to the water birth room, and Pierce and I got into the huge tub. The warm water helped me to sink into a deeper state of relaxation, and the buoyancy made each position I took much easier on my body. Soon after, Melissa, the midwife, came in and introduced herself and a few minutes later, Jenny, the doula, arrived. With Pierce, Melissa, and Jenny joining in, I started to vocalize with low moans and chants to get through the pain. After about two hours of this, Melissa suggested that I get up out of the tub for a few minutes to change position and use the toilet. The minute I stepped out of the tub, I started shaking uncontrollably and felt the first “pushing” contraction rock my lower body. Pierce dried me off and helped me work through the next couple of contractions as Melissa and Jenny got the water level and temperature in the tub ready for the pushing stage.  Once back in the tub, the contractions seemed to alternate between first-stage contractions and second-stage “pushing” contractions. As the pushing contractions became more dominant, I used Melissa’s eyes a focal point and began to push with all my might during each contraction. These contractions were easier to deal with; they still hurt tremendously, but I was able to control the intensity of my pushes, and more importantly, I got a few minutes break in between each. After about thirty minutes of pushing, Melissa checked Luther's progress and told me to reach down and feel the top of his head during the next push. I did and felt a soft, slimy bulge; not quite what I was expecting his head to feel like! At this point, I told Melissa there was no way he was going to fit through; she laughed and assured me that he would.

I pushed again and felt the head move out a bit more then slide back when I stopped pushing. After a few more pushes, he didn’t slide back. I moved to my hands and knees, gave one mighty push, and his head was out. Piercen, who was sitting behind me in the tub exclaimed “Oh, his little face is looking up at me!” Melissa and Jenny told me to push once more and out came the rest of his body. I was so relieved for the pain and exertion to be over! They helped me pull Luther up out of the water and up to my chest. My first thought on seeing him was he had the chubbiest cheeks I had ever seen! He didn’t cry at all, but just slightly whimpered. I held him close to me, and Pierce helped me move water over his body to keep him warm. I think Piercen was crying, and everyone kept saying what a big, beautiful baby he was (8 lbs. 13 oz.). We named him Luther Michael Oliver, a name we’ve had picked out for years.

Recovery ended up being a bit more complicated than anticipated as I ended up having a third degree tear, but the hospital staff was phenomenal, and we headed home two days later. I am so thankful that we were able to have midwifery care and a water birth with no interventions within the facilities of a first rate hospital. I am also thankful that we took the Bradley Method Childbirth Class; without the pain-management techniques, the thorough understanding of each labor stage, and the focus on teamwork Pierce and I developed over the 12-week course, I’m not sure that I would had the fortitude to go through with a fully un-medicated birth experience. If you have any interest in having a natural birth, I strongly urge you to check out a local Bradley class along with your options for having a water birth; you’ll be so glad you did.

Giving birth was hands down the hardest and most intense thing I have ever done, but it was worth every moment to have my little boy enter the world fully alert with no medication in his system and having experienced no additional stress beyond the natural labor experience.  Natural birth was of the most important gifts I will ever give to him; one I will try not to remind him of when he’s being an annoying teenager!  

LIttle Family
Photo: Jenny Lindley, CHES, AAHCC, CD (DONA)

Luther Michael Oliver
Photo: Jenny Lindley, CHES, AAHCC, CD (DONA)


  1. Kelli this is such a beautiful post! Thanks for sharing your story. I admire you! You are so tough!! :)

  2. What a beautiful post Kelli! Thank you for sharing! Super proud of you Wonder Mama!!

  3. Lovely, lovely, lovely post, Kelli! So proud of you, thank you for sharing your story!

  4. So happy for you all! I agree- a natural birth is a tremendous gift, not only to Luther but to yourself as well! Now you can look at so many things and think, well, if I can birth naturally, I can surely do (fill-in-the-blank)!! Empowerment! Loved reading your adventure, and pray the blessings continue.

  5. Thank you friends for the wonderful comments! I certainly feel blessed and empowered by this experience!

  6. Wow Kelli! 9 cm dilated on admittance! Cheers and high-fives mama!! So happy that the Bradley Method gave you the tools to manage your labor naturally and you had a comfortable birthing environment and truly makes such a difference. I hear you about the awesome spine-tingling pushing stage. Sadly, I wasn't in the water and on my back and pushed for over two had a lovely 2nd degree tear to boot. (Thankfully it's all a blur to me because I used Hypnobabies for labor and time magically disappeared as I meditated on my peace.) Wonderful story and thanks so much for sharing it. I hope I have a water birth in my future for my next babe!

  7. I think you're missing any mention of the ultimate natural high you're on once you've pushed baby out...I remember feeling like I was floating on a cloud. I've spoken to other mama's who used meds and said that they never experienced this? Oxytocin is amazing!!!