MEET KITTREDGE EMERT GIELOW

We are just smitten with this little boy. I never knew I could love someone this much so quickly. Kitt is the sweetest baby, and I’m trying to savor every moment we have with him while he’s this little. I waver back and forth between wanting him to never grow up but also looking forward to days with more sleep and routine (hopefully).

Kittredge was a name I saw online, and I had saved it on a baby name list well before we were pregnant. We also toyed with August, Zurich, Ansel, and Ashland. We decided to call the baby a different name each day to see which one we liked best. We started with Kittredge and never stopped. Kitt quickly became his nickname. My grandfather passed away about a month before we conceived. When we found out we were having a boy, it felt like he was being replaced with someone super special on earth. We decided that his middle name had to be Emert, after him. We hope Kitt loves nature and long-winded stories as much as he did :)

I loved reading through friends’ birth stories, as they were encouraging and honest as we prepared for labor. Even though this post will be incredibly raw (and long), I hope it will do the same for those about to jump into parenthood.

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I held pregnancy with an open hand. I had no expectations for how it would go. I heard every possible story from friends. Some had the easiest pregnancies, and some had the hardest. Thankfully, mine was “textbook,” and we didn’t have any issues. I was pleasantly surprised.

However, labor was another story.

I had the highest expectations for our labor. I prepared for a natural, unmedicated birth from the moment we found out we were pregnant. Seriously. I called our doula to book her around seven weeks. She must have thought we were crazy. We did the birth classes; read numerous natural labor books (love, love, love Ina May’s book); did the stretches and squats; and stayed active throughout pregnancy.

When we hit 40 weeks, I started to panic. Being induced was one of my biggest fears in pregnancy. I knew the statistics were against us if we had to be medically induced as far as not being able to have an unmedicated, vaginal birth. How would we decide when it was time to schedule an induction? The natural birth textbooks said it was fine to wait until 42+ weeks. The doctor was emphatic that 41 weeks and 3 days was as far as he felt comfortable waiting because of the risk of stillbirth. Of course, we didn’t want to take that risk, but we also didn’t want to have a baby in distress because he wasn’t ready to arrive.

The last two weeks of pregnancy were the hardest days of it all. Waiting, hoping and praying daily. I’d get my hopes up when some contractions would start, only to sob uncontrollably when they went away a few hours later. I think I cried every day in those 10 days post due. I was a mess. I would ask the baby to arrive while sobbing in his nursery and hysterically beg God that we wouldn’t have to be induced. I ate all the right foods to naturally induce labor (including 6 dates/day in the last month), did oxytocin-building activities ;), had acupuncture, drank raspberry leaf tea, had membranes swept twice, hiked in the day, power walked every night. It was physically and emotionally exhausting. We did everything to get things moving, except castor oil (per doctor’s orders).

We finally had an induction date on the calendar, and the only positive was that we could make it easier on my parents to plan their trip down to watch Poa. On our induction day, we went out to breakfast and just stared at each other. Brendan asked me, what is going on? Is this actually happening today? It felt surreal and overwhelming. We couldn’t figure out how to grasp that we were about to become parents, and yet we were also disappointed that we hadn’t been able to make labor start on our own.

Our induction started at 5:30p. I was almost a 2, 70% effaced. The doctor came in to insert the foley bulb catheter and we already hit a wall.  They were missing the wire that helps to guide the catheter into the cervix. For some reason the entire order was delivered without this essential piece, and the hospital did not have any spares. The doctor tried to manually insert the catheter with her hand, quite challenging with a posterior cervix. She attempted twice without success. I started freaking out. Were we going to go back home tonight? I had come to terms with the FB but was not ready to start pitocin or other non-mechanical measures. After 20 minutes of waiting, they were able to find an older version of the FB, but the doctor told me that it would only get me to 3-4 cm, instead of 4-5 cm. We were disappointed that it wouldn’t push us as far but beyond grateful that we had something to get things moving. If you’ve ever had a foley bulb inserted before, you know the discomfort of having it inserted three times.

Contractions started about 30 minutes later, the strongest I had felt yet (level 4-5 pain). They only lasted about an hour before completely dissipating. The doctor checked me around 1:00a, and the foley bulb was out. I was at 3.5. Because contractions had stopped, she wanted to start pitocin. We decided to try to get some rest and talk it through with our OB in the morning. In the meantime, I tried nipple stimulation to try to kick things off…without any success.

Our doctor came by around 8:30a, and he wanted to break my water before starting pit. We were stuck on this decision because we didn’t want to be on a clock with a possible c-section, but I really, really didn’t want to be on pit. I knew that pitocin meant having to be on an IV and continuous monitoring, which would make laboring unmedicated a bit more awkward. Not to mention that I had heard contractions can be more intense with pitocin because the meds are forcing your body to contract against their will. Our doctor promised to not put us on a clock unless the baby wasn’t handling labor well. We decided to break the water, and I instantly went to four centimeters.

We did some serious laps around the birthing center, trying to make contractions start. The walking helped, but the contractions weren’t getting stronger nor closer together. The nurse checked me around 11:00, and we were still at a four. We decided to wait for my parents to bring us lunch and then start pitocin at 12:00.

Within 15 minutes of the pitocin drip, contractions picked up considerably. I had to start focusing on my breathing and labor positioning. After about 30 minutes, she upped the dose again. I felt like the contractions were manageable, but I had a ton of back pain. By back pain, I mean it felt like knives stabbing into my sacrum. At our 41 week ultrasound, we learned that Kitt was occiput posterior, which meant that his skull was directly on my pelvis, bone on bone. I couldn’t even feel contractions in the front…that’s how bad the back labor was. Because of his position, he also had to rotate 300º around the back (from right to left) or arrive sunny side up. At this point, I asked Brendan to call our doula, Jen.

I remember Jen arriving around 2:00 and feeling so much relief. Brendan was an incredible support person throughout the entire labor, but Jen’s experience made her phenomenal at helping with counter pressure and mentally getting through each contraction. I can’t say enough good things about her and Chama at Homegrown Babies. I would recommend them a thousand times over. I don’t know how most women go through labor without doulas!

My contractions were 2-4 minutes apart, but I still felt like I could make it through them calmly. When the nurse increased the dose of Pitocin again, things became real. I would say my pain level went quickly to a 9-10, and contractions were piggy backing without any break. I felt like we must be at transition or close, based on what we learned in birth class. I kept begging to get in the tub, hoping that would provide some release of tension.  Jen wanted the doctor to check me before getting in the tub.

I was still at a four.

To say I was discouraged was an understatement. My cervix was less posterior, and the baby had moved down a little bit. But, the hours of contractions and the intensity felt like it had all been for nothing. I couldn’t believe we still had so much farther to go.

My anxiety was through the roof most of labor. That plus adrenaline left me constantly shivering, which did not make it easy to relax between or during contractions. I knew that tension was not helping the pain, nor allowing the uterus to make the most of each contraction. I felt like my body had forsaken me because I could. not. stop. shaking.

The tub at our hospital was disappointing, unfortunately. Most labor tubs are deep and large enough for partners to get in. This one was more like a bathroom spa tub, so it was incredibly uncomfortable and difficult for my support team to physically help me. It was also shallow, so I wasn’t getting the benefit of the buoyancy that most labor tubs have. The nurse had a really tough time getting the monitor to work in the tub, so in between every contraction, she had to keep fiddling with it to check the baby’s heart rate. I started to lose focus. I keep thinking that it was time for the epidural. I just wanted to quit because the pain was incredibly intense, and nothing was helping. I told Jen and Brendan that I wanted to be done. I remember Jen encouraging me to keep going and suggested trying the shower.

Getting to the shower was incredibly difficult. I had to stop two or three times to get through contractions on the way. And, the shower was no relief. At this point, I was fighting the contractions bad. I was beyond done and needed the epidural. I was checked again at 5:30p and was still at a FREAKING FOUR. I had no qualms about the epidural at this point. There was no way I could keep going with this pain for six more centimeters.

Waiting for the anesthesiologist was the longest hour of my life. When he finally walked through the door, everything was a blur. I vaguely remember signing consent forms, getting a blood pressure cuff, sitting on the side of the table trying to hold still. The epidural took fast, and I had some relief about 15 minutes after it was inserted. Bliss. We called my parents to bring us some food (well, a smoothie for me).

I had a hot spot on the lower left side of my abdomen, but the relief of the back pain was all that I wanted. I asked for the peanut ball to hopefully open my hips and make the baby turn. I started to relax, and I thought we were going to be waiting for hours. Jen was about to leave, but she decided to catch up with Chama before heading out. Within an hour of starting the epidural (around 7:30p), my contractions started to pick up again. What was going on?! I thought the epidural was supposed to take away the pain and not have it return. I was feeing contractions at a pain level 4-5 again. Even though the pain wasn’t awful, it mentally felt like I was back in the tub when they were a 9-10. I was beyond frustrated because I wanted to rest. I remember Brendan just trying to calm me down because I was freaking out. Jen came back from her phone call (thankfully she hadn’t left!) and tried to soothe me with Brendan. She later told us that she saw Kitt’s body on the left side of my abdomen (had finally rotated the 300º from the right side) and knew we were probably close to pushing. She didn’t tell us this at the time, mostly because she didn’t want to give us false hope. They called the anesthesiologist back to adjust the dosage. He was able to get the pain down to a 2-3, which helped me relax a little bit. I was shaking uncontrollably this entire hour.

In my mind, I thought labor was going to last forever and ever. I couldn’t see an end in sight.

Dr. Cuellar came in at 8:30p to check me. He said, You’re at a 10! It’s time to push! The baby is really low at +1/+2, so it will probably only take about 30 minutes, if you can push well.

Brendan and I just looked at each other with astonishment. What?! We’re at a 10?!

I went from feeling the deepest level of despair to pure joy. I had all of my energy back in that moment and was so excited to push. Brendan started trembling and crying. I think it hit him all at once that we were about to become parents. Everyone left the room for a minute, and we just took it in. It was the last moment that it would be just the two of us.

We waited for our friend, Elizabeth, to arrive before pushing because she was photographing the birth. We would have called her earlier, but I honestly thought that I would be laboring longer unmedicated and didn’t want her to come until we were at a 7-8. Once she arrived, it was showtime.

I only had to push for 15 minutes (about three contractions), and I remember Dr. Cuellar saying to look down and see my baby. Kitt was covered in blood and facing me. He told me to grab him, and I did. I remember it took a minute for him to start crying. Once we heard him, I smiled. I think I was in shock more than anything. I looked over to Brendan and saw tears in his eyes, and I lost it a little bit too. We have a baby?! This is our baby?!

After almost 24 hours of labor, he was born on January 12th at 9:17p (our anniversary is 9/17!). He was 7 lbs 1.5 oz., 19 3/4 in. long.

We did skin to skin for a while. Brendan cut the cord. Kitt rooted for my breast pretty quickly and hopped on to nurse instantly. I remember the nurse calling him a barracuda because he latched for a good 45 minutes. We wanted to introduce Kitt to my parents, but we took our time nursing and snuggling. Brendan held him for a little bit, and Kitt just looked up at him, sucking his thumb. Those are some of my favorite photos from our birth.

My parents met Kitt, and I loved sharing that we had a BOY and his namesake! We also jumped on FaceTime with Brendan’s family and introduced them to our son.

I can’t believe he’s already a week old at this point. The first few days of postpartum and recovery were tough, especially with a second degree tear. We’re slowly starting to get the hang of most things and trying to be patient with the sharp learning curve that comes with becoming parents. Kitt truly makes it all worth it, and I’m not just saying that…as cliche as it is. I love the way he looks at us and his gassy smiles after eating. Snuggling, slow mornings, late nights…it’s all so great. He’s such a good baby, and I can’t believe I get to be his mom. What an incredible gift from the Lord.

We cannot thank Elizabeth and Dave enough for the beautiful photos and video from our birth.

 

Kittredge Emert Gielow // 1.12.17 from Almond Leaf Studios on Vimeo.




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