One year ago today on July 4th, 2017, I gave birth to Kai Mitchell, who is altogether sweet, joyful, fun and feisty. He’s radiant. I find myself wishing everyone could meet him just to have the chance to share his sweet and happy spirit. I was in labor with him for 6 hours and he was born less than 45 minutes after arriving to the hospital—a blur of memories now. I’m so glad I wrote these words in the weeks following his birth.
Even though the holiday was so close to my due date, I never really imagined Kai would be born on July 4th. And when I realized that was exactly what was about to happen, I wasn't exactly excited--but the idea has since grown on me, as these things do. Fourth of July baby. Friends and family gatherings, swimming and playing, camping trips, telling Kai these fireworks are just for him—and, of course, always having the day off.
On July 3, 2017 around 10:30PM, I began to have contractions, which was nothing new. I was 39 weeks pregnant and had been experiencing strong Braxton Hicks for weeks—in some instances I even felt slight labor-like discomfort with them—but they never progressed and the discomfort always dissipated, so I wasn’t sure this particular time would be any different. But I had my suspicions, so I told Luke and proceeded to tie up some loose ends around the house in case this was truly labor. I finished packing my hospital bag, packed a bag for Cliff who would spend the day with friends, and proceeded to call/text a few people that would need to know if this was it: my friend Lauren (who was kind enough to come sleep over with Cliff), my friend Adina (photographer friend meeting us at the hospital to take photos), and our parents (we needed to determine who would make the last minute trip—10 hours!— to be with Cliff during our hospital stay. So many logistics this time around, much different than having a first baby. My contractions were about 30 seconds long and, after an hour or so of hustle-bustle around the house, beginning to get more uncomfortable. I told my mom I would be very surprised if these contractions just stopped altogether, given their intensifying nature. Lastly, I called our OB office to get some advice from the provider on call but I was sent to voicemail. I left a message.
Luke suggested that we go to bed and try to get some rest, and I knew he was right, but I really wanted to finish getting ready in case we had to wake up and book it out the door. I was giving birth at a hospital an hour away and I felt very little clarity about how things would play out—if I went to sleep, would I wake up to a baby ready to come out? Like, at that moment?! This is how my mind was functioning but honestly what a silly concern. In no way would it ever be possible to sleep through strong contractions that precede birth, but alas, I was anxious. At that point I asked Luke if he had packed a bag and he said no (haha—again, second baby! so little prep), so I told him he should so we would be all ready to leave. Around midnight we climbed into bed and I began timing my contractions with Full Term (it was really fun to see that, when I re-downloaded the app onto my phone, it still showed my stats from Cliff’s labor over 2 years ago). I texted our sweet, amazing previous doula Candice to get her two cents about leaving for the hospital. I continued to feel very unsure about if and when to do so. I was nervous that I would mess up and make all of these people shuffle their schedules, wake up, drive in the middle of the night—potentially for nothing. Candice encouraged me to pray for wisdom and she let me know she would be doing the same. She sent me a picture: it was a candle that she lit for me, to keep me in her thoughts during my labor (seriously tears. This was at midnight). I laid down and tried to rest between contractions but I kept getting up to use the bathroom, at least 8 times. I was praying for some sign to know that this was it. Between 12-1:30 my contractions slowed down a bit, which was not what I was looking for. But then sure enough, they started to pick up in intensity and frequency. I decided that if things continued to build, we would leave for the hospital at 3am. Around 2:45am I called Lauren to ask her to head over to stay with Cliff, and I also called Adina who had already started driving to the hospital! Talk about intuition. I woke Luke up to let him know that we should leave and he reminded me to check in with our provider again because I hadn’t heard back from anyone. One of the midwives, Becca, picked up the phone and informed me that she was already at the hospital attending births and she would look forward to seeing me soon. We left a little after 3am and began the hour long drive.
The ride to the hospital was a bit surreal. Even in the midst of labor, it’s very difficult to wrap your head around the fact that a baby, still hanging out in your belly, will soon be in your arms. I had also been anxious in the weeks leading up to labor with Kai, knowing this time what it takes to give birth. I knew my own power, yet I still didn’t want to face the task again. But thankfully, I felt peaceful on our drive in the dark. It was serene and hardly anyone was out. I had about 8 contractions in the car along the way, but they were short—no more than 45 seconds or so—and the minutes between them were peaceful. Like my first labor, I was using vocalization to get through them—my best best tool. I remembered to put on my trusty labor playlist which has remained saved on spotify since Cliff was born. We listened to one of my favorite worship songs and this line got me: “from my mother’s womb you have chosen me, love has called my name”. I wasn’t feeling scared or nervous. I was feeling VERY confident about our decision to leave for the hospital when we did. I knew with certainty that this was really it, and at the same time that we weren’t at risk of not making it to the hospital on time.
I tried to eat a little snack—a granola bar—and, like last time I ate on the way to the hospital, it didn’t sit very well and I only had a couple bites. We pulled off the exit to the hospital and, as we parked, all of the sudden I felt an extreme urgency to get inside. Suddenly my contractions were SUPER strong. Luke asked me a question about what to bring in with us and I think I just said “We need to get in there now.” When we stopped at the front desk to check in, a contraction hit and I couldn’t even really talk. They were coming very close together now. The person called up to L&D and sent us on our way to triage.
The labor and delivery floor was quiet as we exited the elevator. It was now around 4:15am and we were ushered into a triage room where I was given a gown and told that a nurse would be in to check me shortly. “Shortly” started to feel like an eternity and I realized that I really had to use the restroom, so someone escorted me down the hall. I was at the point in my labor when time becomes a blur. My contractions were very strong, but manageable with intense vocalization and still short—they were around 30 seconds and coming closer together at about 1.5 minutes. Adina arrived and I was so happy to see her! I got a heart monitor strapped to my belly and a hospital worker came in to ask me a million and a half questions for paperwork. I answered when I could and worked through contractions when they hit, letting others do my talking for me when they had to.
When the nurse checked me, she told me I was 7 centimeters dilated. She asked about an epidural and I entertained the idea until she told me that she would first have to administer an hour’s worth of fluids. Then I said “Okay, no.” I knew I didn’t have that long! We walked right across the hall into our delivery room, which was much smaller than the last time. With Cliff’s labor I also had a room with a whirlpool, which wasn’t available this time. I felt disappointed for a second, which was inconsequential--little did I know Kai would be born 15 minutes later.
At this point, things got a bit crazy. The nurse told me they were very busy that night and that our midwife, Becca, was attending another delivery. I took off the hospital gown and started feeling like I had to use the bathroom again. I was embarrassed because the room was super small and I was using the toilet like 5 feet from everyone. I still had no idea how close we were to meeting Kai. I began to feel him bearing down on my cervix, it’s the craziest feeling in the world. How things unfolded next I barely remember because it was so incredibly fast. I remember kneeling on the bed and pushing even though there was no one in the room to deliver Kai. Remember I said how quiet the L&D floor was that night? Well, it was quiet no longer. I was in the uninhibited moments before my baby boy was born, and I was definitely roaring. My water broke and the nurse calmly but urgently asked me to turn over and lie on my back, and I said no. I truly didn’t feel like I could physically turn myself around to lie down. She checked me, saying I was now 8 cm dilated which is funny, because immediately after that he was READY TO COME OUT and I knew it. I got right back up and kneeled on all fours and pushed, because I couldn’t not. The midwife still wasn’t there, but his head was bearing down so hard on my cervix and I could feel him very, very, very low. There was no ring of fire or burning that some people speak of, only crazy pressure—the indescribable feeling of your baby still being inside your body but being JUST on the brink of bringing him out. Un. Real. Our midwife rushed in at that moment, having just delivered a baby 2 minutes prior and then sprinting to our room. She immediately began talking to me and I remember her repeating my name. “Margaret. Margaret.” She was calm and gentle. “Margaret, try to stop screaming.” She was explaining that I was wasting my energy when I should be channeling it into pushing. That was the single most helpful thing she could have said. I focused hard on not screaming and pushing with everything I had, and with my next push I delivered his head. Then Becca directed me with one more small push and I felt her maneuver his tiny body out. I heard his little cries. I FREAKING DID IT.
Because of the way I was positioned, she had to pass him underneath me and through my legs so I could hold him. May I never ever forget the feeling of holding my brand new moments-old baby for the very first time. Warm, slippery and wiggling—his cord was short just like Cliff’s so I couldn’t fully hold him up to my chest. I held him like that for a long time, feeling equal parts shocked and relieved that it was over. I had done it. I gave birth, again. I was an emotional basket case, crying, laughing, saying "I can’t believe he’s here” over and over. Finally I got turned over to my back and he laid on me. My precious Kai. It was about 4:50am, less than 45 minutes after we arrived at the hospital.
The moments following were, and always are, total bliss. Staring at his tiny face, absorbing him, smelling him and feeling his perfect skin after only imagining him for 9 months. These are the most glorious moments. Birth is so, so incredible and my experiences giving birth are some of my most treasured memories. But, as every mother knows, the way your baby enters the world pales in comparison to watching them grow. In the past year, Kai has brought us more joy than could ever be recounted. I can’t begin to describe how happy, how sweet, how silly and amazing he is. Kai, we are so blessed that you are a part of our family. You deserve to be celebrated with every firework that lights up the sky tomorrow my love.
when you smile I am undone
you outshine the morning sun
incredible photos by dear friend Adina Brown-Selner of Thistle + Lace Photography