Chinook: A Birth Story

He arrived on the winds of a chinook, a warm winter storm that matched the intensity of his birth.  A ruckus of ravens foretold of his coming as they congregated in the changing winds.

The day started out peaceful enough, calm and grey outside, and here at the Williams Street Farmhouse, I awoke with much awaited mild contractions.  I was two weeks to the day past my due date, and if I wanted to give birth at home with my midwife as planned, I had to go into active labor before midnight or she would have to turn my care over to a doctor.  Matt and I actively worked on getting my labor started all week… walking stairs, eating spicy foods, cleaning the house, making love, all the things that were supposed to help, but he seemed perfectly content to hang out in my warm safe belly.

I called my midwife, Suzy, with the good news… five minutes apart and lasting 40 seconds.  She told me to check back in a few hours.  I called my mom and good friend Margi who were going to help with the birth and they came right over to help me prepare.  As we ate breakfast and chatted, my contractions dropped off.  My mom left for an appointment and Margi and I went on a walk.  Suzy came to check me out and set up.  We were considering playing a game to make the wait go by faster and several friends dropped by to lend support.  Suzy left and told us to call her back when it didn’t feel like a party anymore.

A bit frustrated with the lack of progress, and knowing I would likely have a long night ahead of me, I laid down for an afternoon nap.  As I lay in half sleep, I rubbed my belly and explained to the baby it was time to come out.  I woke up around 5pm with an intense contraction.

I sat on the rug in front of the wood stove and tried to ride the waves of the contractions with as much grace and ease as I could muster.  Margi and my mom came back and soon we decided we should probably get Suzy back as well.  It certainly no longer felt like a party. The rain picked up outside and the wind started to blow as my contractions got more and more intense.  I was so relieved when Suzy finally made it and said that Stella, her apprentice, was on her way.

Suzy checked me and found I was 7 centimeters dilated… only 3 more to go, but unfortunately those were the toughest.  I labored in the bathtub, on the toilet, and in my bed, with great assistance from my team.  I let out low moaning noises (and sometimes less composed shrieks), squeezed whoever’s hand I could grab, and looked deep into Matt’s eyes for energy to get me through each contraction.  I kept telling myself I only needed to get through ten more.  Luckily I didn’t have enough concentration to count past one. Finally, when it felt like I was about to split in two, Suzy asked if I wanted her to break my water to take some of the pressure off.  “YES!” I cried, and felt an enormous relief.  Just a few more contractions and I was ready to push.  It was just five minutes before our midnight deadline!

This was where the real work began.  On the wave of each contraction I pushed with all my might.  The winds raged outside, shaking the house.  After an hour  I started feeling discouraged… nothing seemed to be happening.  Suzy sent me to the shower.  My legs felt weak.  They were shaking uncontrollably, like on the top of a challenging rock climb. Falling was not an option, there was nowhere to go but up!

I moved to the toilet for a few pushes.  Matt was right there with me the whole time, giving me strength.  He told me I was making progress because there was fluid coming out each time I pushed.  I returned to the bed to push with renewed vigor.  I used muscles I didn’t know I had and strength that seemed to come from the core of my being.

Everyone in the room was busy… holding my hands or my legs, recording notes, giving me honey or arnica, or taking the baby’s heart tones.  The heart tones stayed strong throughout the labor, and I knew we had a healthy, strong baby.

“You’ve birthed a lock of hair,” Suzy cried!  “You’re doing it!  Keep pushing!”  My progress gave me renewed energy…almost there, and boy, was I ready for this to be over!  A few more pushes and the baby’s head was out.  There was concern at the bottom of the bed and the look on my mom’s face spelled trouble.  The umbilical cord was wrapped around the baby’s head and arm.  Suzy expertly unwrapped the cord and gave me the go-ahead to push the baby the rest of the way out.

Suddenly, it was over and my baby was on my chest, covered by a blanket.  I could hardly believe it!  “Is it a boy or a girl?” I asked.  Nobody had checked.  I lifted the blanket to take a peek.  “A boy!” I cried.  Figures… we had a girls name picked out but couldn’t decide on a boy’s name!

Graysen on his birthday!

He was beautiful.  A big mop of dark hair and perfect features.  His hands were HUGE, just like his dad’s!  His little lungs let out a healthy wail.  He slipped around on my bare chest as we became acquainted.  How did the bump in my belly become this perfect little human?  And how in the world did I find the strength I needed to get him out?

Outside, the winds had calmed and the rain had transformed the landscape into a different world.  And inside our warm, cozy home, Matt and I also knew our lives had been permanently altered by the arrival of our son!

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