The song “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” took on a new meaning for both my client Morgan and me. Morgan’s firstborn arrived just before Christmas and I barely made it home in time to celebrate with my family. But all’s well that ends well. This is Morgan’s story. 

How Labor Started

She had finished watching “A White Christmas,” an annual tradition with husband Nick and her mom. They were all just getting ready to head for bed when Morgan’s water broke at a quarter after 11. 

“I was sitting on the couch and felt this gush of liquid like I had peed my pants – but completely involuntarily!” Morgan remembered. She shared that she continued in spurts for the next several hours as she and Nick tried to get some sleep before going into Memorial Hospital. After 1 a.m., she contacted me.

I presented her with two options: going in after the contractions started or waiting until a certain time and going in then. Morgan decided if her contractions hadn’t started by eight in the morning, she would go in. 

At the same time, the area had received winter storm predictions of a “bomb cycle” aka a blizzard. The roads stayed calm, but Morgan wanted to make it into the hospital before the weather got any worse. After 2 a.m., she started to experience low-key contractions, so she went in.

While in labor for 14 hours, Morgan mentioned that her mom kept her spirits up by telling her how impressed she was with her fortitude, focus, and calm. Nick stayed present for physical reassurance at every point while Morgan leaned on him during her contractions with providing massage and counter pressure, and hot or cold cloths. 

“Kristen was a supportive and reassuring presence, with knowledge to meet every moment, Morgan added. 

 In her early labor, she named her amazing husband Nick and cherry popsicles as her greatest comforts, along with the TENS Unit that I provided. 

“The stimulation was an incredible distraction from the pain and focus point during contractions,” Morgan remembered. But as her labor continued throughout the day, it didn’t progress as quickly as she had hoped. 

The nurses also gave Morgan Cytotec to help augment contractions and the magic began working in no time! Contractions moved from manageable and about 5-7 minutes apart to increasingly unmanageable and with almost no break in between. To help manage the increasing pain, Morgan took Nubian, an IV pain med and a lifesaver.

“It allowed me to rest and have a break from the pain,” Morgan said.

Unfortunately, the pain returned, and Morgan decided to go for the epidural, even though she wasn’t a fan of needles. 

“It ended up working out and really helped with the pain,” Morgan said. Morgan’s mom, Nick, the nurses, and I helped reposition her several times for comfort, to keep the contractions progressing, and to move the baby into optimal position for delivery. 

“This was a hilarious process since I was numb from the waist down and was essentially maneuvered around like a beached whale!” Morgan added. 

When the doctor returned around seven that evening, he was scheduled to check in on Morgan’s cervical dilation. By then, it measured ten centimeters and signaled that she was ready to push. The main nurse had kept him updated about the labor process throughout the day on the hospital’s portal app. The doctor came in a few times. Eventually, Morgan was fully dilated. 

Time to Push!

“It was suddenly go-time!” Morgan said. 

“I learned that I have the ability to push through more pain than I ever thought I could and persevere through hard times,” Morgan said of her birth experience. “One of the best parts was looking at my husband and having that moment of "this is our son!” She mentioned the one thing she would do differently is to spend more time at home in the beginning to get some sleep. Not having any made the pushing almost 24 hours later that much harder. 

Since it had been almost 24 hours since her water broke, she ended up getting an infection and spiking a fever. This increased the pressure to get the baby out as soon as she could since his heart rate was also rising but stable.

She reached a low point when her OBGYN suggested there may be a need for an episiotomy. Morgan protested, insisting she wanted to keep pushing instead. The nurse and I advocated for Morgan by saying "She does not consent to the episiotomy." Morgan asked about the possibility of other options like forceps or vacuum. After some discussion, she opted to keep pushing.

“Their support helped me to rally,” she said. Two people helped hold back her thighs while she pushed. “When each new contraction came and I was ready to push, I would say ‘support people -- engage!’ which was a moment of humor.” 

She expressed her gratitude for having such awesome people around her who supported her, so she ended up delivering without any other intervention.

Noah was 8 pounds and 12 ounces. He was placed on his mother’s chest.

While her mom and husband were crying when Noah was born, Morgan’s main emotion was just one of relief and finally being able to relax.

“It had been such a long time without sleep and without food,” she said, “and to be on the other side of the pain with my baby on my chest just made everything fade away.” She also thought that pictures of babies fresh from the vaginal canal were a bit gross and not really cute. But when she saw her own son, her mind changed. 

“I didn't have any concern for all of the gunk on him or his cone head,” Morgan said. “I was just entranced by the fact that he existed and was finally here.” After a little while and after Morgan found out the sex of her baby, she looked at her mom and me and said “Do you want to know his name?” We nodded and she looked at her husband for confirmation. Then Morgan said “his name is Noah Francis.” 

I’ll be home for Christmas…

A few hours after the birth on December 23rd, I knew that the blizzard was still happening and that Benton Harbor Road Department said that a highways (that I take home) was shut down because the snowplow came by, but the whiteout from the blizzard looked so bad that it looked like the snowplow hadn’t done anything. I reached out to my doula network in the area. One friend who is also a postpartum doula, Charissa Warne, welcomed me into her home. She was only a few blocks away from the hospital. Her family was so welcoming and inclusive. 

The highway was still closed and not safe on Christmas Eve. They invited me to partake in their Christmas Eve traditions. On Christmas morning, they surprised me with a few gifts. It was so sweet. Eventually, by Christmas afternoon, the roads were cleared and safe. I made it home. I gave my husband and kids a hug and cried. 

Picking the Name "Noah"

Before Noah Francis entered the world, Morgan and Nick had picked out another name for him but it wasn’t sticking. One day, Nick had brought up “Noah Francis” in references to the biblical character and the Catholic saint, respectively. Both men shared a connection to animals and creation, a value both Morgan and Nick want to instill in their kids. In a way, the name is fitting because the parents are vegetarian, too. 

“It was also an incredible example of being radically countercultural when it comes to doing what was right and what God required,” Morgan added. “We hope our Noah can have that sense of inner certainty.” She told me that St. Francis was Nick’s confirmation saint and that his family also believed that St. Francis interceded in Nick’s own miraculous conception and birth.

Since Noah was born, he has developed his own cute habits. 

“He loves to burrow into people,” Morgan said. “Whenever he's doing a contact nap, he will inevitably end up with his face in someone’s armpit and his entire body contorted into wild angles.” 

While the grandparents have seen multiple family resemblances in Noah, Morgan and Nick primarily see him as his own little being. 

“However, we have decided he has his mama's skin tone and his papa's eyelashes,” she said. She added that so far the best thing about being a parent is seeing him grow and learn new skills. “Especially making sustained eye contact, all his little facial expressions, and the cutest little sounds.” 

At the same time, being a parent was both harder and easier than she expected. She has doubts and doesn't feel equipped, but then she’ll also have other joyful moments where other situations come more smoothly and naturally.

Congrats to Morgan and Nick to becoming parents to Noah!

Morgan's Review of Kristen as a Doula

"We are SO happy that we worked with Kristen as our birth doula and photographer. Starting during pregnancy, she had great advice about stretches to mitigate discomfort. We also met ahead of time to talk about birth "plan"/preferences and ways to prepare for all the different parts of labor (mental, emotional, physical, etc.).

During labor and delivery, she was such an incredible support and advocate. Having her around meant that my mom and husband could take the chance to rest or go to the hospital cafeteria for food. She also had such a wealth of knowledge about different laboring positions that successfully helped rotate my baby in utero so that he was in the optimal position for birth.

Finally, she made sure to check in with me to make sure I had the chance to ask questions of my doctor and nurses when complications came up -- she ensured that my choices were respected and I felt so empowered!!

In addition, the pictures she took are such valuable mementos of the entire experience and ensure that we won't forget a single moment of the most incredible experience of our lives <3"

(This review is found on my DoulaMatch.net Profile)

About the Author Kristen Schell

Kristen is a birth doula, photographer and childbirth educator. She wants to help families feel inspired by what birth can be. It can be beautiful, empowering, supported, and evidence based.

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