*This birth story is told from the point of view of the father’s Aunt, who was also their doula*

My journey began on August 1st when Amanda and Jonathan called to ask if I would be their doula.  I was completely taken by surprise!  Being a doula for family is not “a right,” it is an honor.  Most people choose not to have a doula who is related to them, simply because it is just not comfortable.  Birth is a very intimate time in a couple’s lives, and I truly understand the importance of having those around you who make you feel comfortable.  (I just never dreamed that when they asked themselves who would make them comfortable during birth, they thought of me!)  In the end, I was completely blessed to be present for the birth of my great nephew!

September 23rd at 2:48am:  The phone rings, and it’s Jonathan.    I answered the phone “you’re right on time!”.  He giggled a little and let me know that Amanda was  having contractions a minute long and it had been that way for a few hours.  I had a feeling that the phone would ring that night – so much so that I went to bed at 9:30 P.M. (an unheard of time for me!).  I told  my family I had a feeling I would be getting a call at 3 or 4 in the morning.

Turns out I was right.  I can’t take the credit for my hunch though.  My sister Lori had called me on the 22nd on her way home from work.  She told me that Amanda had gone to the midwife that morning and her cervix was changing, she was losing her plug, and was having some contractions here and there.  (I took this as a pretty encouraging sign things might happen and figured I would be going to bed early from here on out.)

As I spoke to  Jonathan on the phone I asked if he wanted me to come over or it he was calling to give me a heads up.   I asked Jonathan to put the phone near Amanda while she had a contraction to get a feel for where she was at. There were no grunts, moans, breath catches or breath holding on the other end.  I knew it wasn’t transition type contractions, but I had no idea if she was early or active labor at this point.   I asked if they could try to sleep through them, and he said Amanda couldn’t sleep.  I offered to come over and try to get her into some positions that might help her sleep, and be there for support.   Jonathan took me up on my offer, and I got off the phone to get ready for the day.

The air was cool and crisp when I left that morning, as the temperature dropped down to around 50 degrees that night – the first time it had done so since May 21st.  Perhaps it was the round of storms we had been having the past few days that helped kick Amanda into gear!

At 3:48am, I arrived at the Gipson home!  Shortly after, Lori, one of the grandmother’s to be, showed up as well.  Amanda was indeed having contractions 6-10 minutes apart and they were lasting around 60 seconds.  She was doing very well handling the contractions.  I wondered if she was still in early labor, or if she would be the “silent laboring” person that only gave off cues right before the pushing phase.   All the signs pointed towards early labor, but I’ve come to learn that not every labor goes “by the book”.

Sarah Jones, the midwife, arrived as did Amanda’s mom, Cindy.  The house was busting with excitement and anticipation!  When Sara checked Amanda, she was found to be 3cm. If I remember correctly, that was a  change since her midwife appointment the day before.   She suggested that Amanda and Jonathan try to get some sleep.  Poor Amanda had been having too many contractions to get some decent sleep.   We didn’t want her to be too tired when she needed her energy the most.  At 4:40 Sarah went and laid down, and so did the parent’s to be.   Unfortunately, Amanda could not sleep so at 4:55 she and Jonathan decided to go for a walk.  This did help bring contractions closer together, and Jonathan said they were about 3 minutes apart.  We timed a few and  they were  indeed 3-4 minutes apart and lasting a good 60 seconds!

I tried to get Amanda set up on her knees while leaning against the couch, so she could rest as much as possible through the contractions.  We provided  “gate control” through the contractions, while Jonathan was the verbal encourager!  (He did his coaching very well)!  He was continually telling Amanda that he loved her, and that she was doing *sooo good*,and she truly was.

5:54:  Amanda and Jonathan tried to get some sleep again.  Lori and Cindy were sent to the store for breakfast/lunch items.  Sarah thought it would be a good idea for Amanda to get some breakfast, take some Benadryl and hopefully sleep.   We hung out through some contractions, and Sarah checked Amanda at 7:10 and found that she was indeed progressing!   She was now 4cm!

Lori made scrambled eggs, hash-browns, and sausage patties for breakfast.  Amanda had eggs over easy for her meal, which her mother so lovingly cut for her daughter!   After breakfast, Amanda and I made scrambled eggs in her belly as we used the rebozo to sift her belly and help Cale get out from that posterior position.   Cale seemed quite happy in that position, thank you very much, so we did a lot of belly sifting that day!

At 8:00, it was time for Amanda to take the Benadryl.  I tried to get Amanda comfortable with pillows on her hands and knees on the bed, and I left them alone to get some sleep.  Amanda didn’t keep the Benadryl down, but somehow she managed to get a little bit of a nap (even if it wasn’t constant).  Lori left during this time to go home and take care of the doggie, while Cindy and I watched TLC,  dozing intermittently.

At 11:46 Jonathan came out of the bedroom, and we all got down to working on getting a good, strong labor pattern going.  The *air* started to change and it hinted that things were going to turn a corner soon.   Amanda labored on the ball for a long time, while Cindy made some wonderful chicken soup for lunch.  Contractions were between 3-6 minutes apart and were lasting over a minute which seemed to show some progress was happening!  Lori and I took turns doing hip and back massage, while Cindy and Jonathan created some gentle hands on gate control on her back, shoulders or hair while giving her lots of verbal encouragement.

By 1:41 contractions were anywhere between 2 and 5 minutes apart and were usually lasting 90 seconds on average.  Amanda started to become a bit more inwardly focused, but was still very much in control.  She was quietly focusing on the task at hand as she let her body do what it needed to do.   Her eyelids remained softly shut, her brows remained unfurrowed, and the rest of her body stayed nice and limp through each contraction.  The perfect recipe for shortening labor!

Sarah had left shortly after 11am to get some work done, and told us to call when things changed.  At 2:42, Amanda ate a few spoonfuls of soup while she sat on the ball, and rested between contractions.  I spoke to Sarah on the phone, and told her the contractions were getting closer, and lasting longer, but I wasn’t sure we were in good active labor yet (though I did mention that Amanda could be really good at not showing it too!).   She told me to do the rebozo for a good 15 minutes, and she would send Cindy Haggerton over for an adjustment and check Amanda’s progress.

Right before Sarah came back, Amanda’s contractions spaced back out to 5-6 minutes apart but they were still between 60-90 seconds long.  I sat on the floor and tried acupressure to get contractions stronger and longer.   While Amanda sat on the ball, Jonathan played some music (one of them being “Cale’s song”).  This was a truly magical moment.  As the music played, and contractions came and went, it was hard to imagine that Amanda was feeling any pain at all.  The room was just filled with such an ambiance of love and peace that it was hard to believe that there was a woman a few hours from giving birth.  These are the moment’s that I treasure as a doula.  When life can be greeted with love and respect, with no schedule, with no alarms, it is beyond description.

Amanda tried to lay down again and see if she could nap a little.  It was a  microscopic nap at best! I suggested that we go outside in the backyard and get some fresh air while we walked around the yard.  If Amanda could not sleep, she needed something to help revive her a bit.  She was showing signs of exhaustion and that just doesn’t mix well with labor.

As we walked around the yard, I tried to imprint on my mind what the weather was like on the day of Cale’s birth. It was partly cloudy, and there seemed to be a slight breeze with a hint of coolness to it.  It wasn’t hot, just really nice.  (I later looked at the temperature and the recorded  high on that day was 74 degrees – perfect birth weather)!

I suggested that Amanda do some high-stepping marches to help bring Cale down a bit.  Amanda did great, listening to every suggestion anyone made, and never fought any of her contractions.  When a contraction would start, she would lean up to the closest person, and just let go.  She barely needed anyone to remind her to keep breathing, as she breezed through every contraction.  Never once did she express worry or concern.  She really seemed to be at peace in her birth world.

“We have a secret in our society and it is not that
birth is painful,
it’s that women are strong.”

~Laura Stavoe Harm

At 3:17pm, Cindy Haggerton arrived.  She spent some time with Amanda in the room, and then they came out to the couch for an adjustment.  Afterwards,  she helped Amanda get situated in her bed, on her back, with pillows under her hips.  By 3:49,  Cale’s heartbeat went from being in the middle of his mommy’s belly to the left side, which proved that the adjustment and positioning helped.

At 4:04, Cindy H.  Checked Amanda, and she was 5cm and stretchy.  (Effacement was 75-80% with baby at 0-+1 station).    Amanda was told to eat some more soup so she could gather more strength for the work ahead.   Cindy called Sarah to tell her it was time to come back over, and then she left for a little while.

Things really begin to pick up after Cindy H left. I continued with acupressure when contractions would space out, but it’s hard to say if it even helped!   Sarah brought over some “Body Balance” and this really gave Amanda some quick energy and color back to her face.  Amanda really wanted to get in the tub, but Sarah didn’t want baby to become posterior.  After another round of Rebozo, she said she could get in the shower.  At 5:30, contractions were still about 5-6 minutes apart but consistently lasting 90 seconds and more.   I could tell as Amanda sat on the ball, that something had changed, and I mentioned to Jonathan I think she had hit the middle of active labor. At  5:36, Sarah checked her and found her to be 6-7cm and quite stretchy.   She was now 100% effaced and baby Cale was at 0 to+1 station!  Serious progress in a very short time!   Amanda, Jonathan and Sarah spent some alone time in the bedroom, while the support group and I stayed outside.

Sarah let Amanda get in the shower, and I believe it was during this alone time, that things got down to business.  By 6:15, Sarah checked her again, and found her to be 8cm.   I filled the crockpot with water and turned it on for the wash cloths later (if they were going to be needed).  I started freezing wash cloths for the pushing stage, and waited for Amanda to get *pushy*.  Sarah had called Cindy H, as well as Keri, but there was nobody there yet when Amanda got in the tub for the first time.  Sarah asked me if I could chart if things went too quickly and she didn’t have an extra pair of hands.

At 6:48 Amanda was feeling *really* pushy, but she still had “a lip” of cervix yet, and couldn’t push (less she swell and have a harder time later).   Jonathan was awesome giving her lots of encouragement at this time when Amanda really needed it.  Amanda was completely amazing, and was still doing very well, despite this very tough part of labor.

With each contraction, Amanda melted into Jonathan, focusing beautifully, while those around her showered her with touch, (or cold wash cloths)!  The only sign that she was in transition was the glistening beads on her forehead, and neck – and the change in her breathing and body movements.  It was not by sound, just the silent movements.

Cindy Haggerton arrived, grandpa’s were called, and Amanda was evicted from the tub at 7:21.  Even though Cale was quite low, the cervical lip was hindering his entrance into the world.  Amanda worked through the contractions and the uncomfortable cervical exams, while Jonathan promised that she would never have to go through this again.  Amanda agreed with Jonathan and said “good, cause I’m not going to!”.

Amanda was on her hands and knees on their bed, handling each contraction with barely a peep.  There were plenty of helpers giving gate control, and positive encouragement.  My job was to keep Jonathan from falling off the bed (as he was literally teetering on the edge while he sat next to Amanda’s head) and keeping frozen wash cloths on Amanda’s forehead or neck.   It was during one of my wash cloth switches to the fridge, that I saw a crew of happy faces waiting in the living room!  Amanda’s dad, Jon, Nikki, Stephen and Eva had come to celebrate the moment.  I told them that baby was really close to being here.  Nikki was grinning from ear to ear and said “I can’t hear ANYTHING, tell her to make some noise”!

I didn’t have time to chart anymore (which is a good thing), but it was about 8:25 when Sarah was able to push the lip out of the way, and Amanda was complete.  Moments before, Amanda agreed to have her water released with hopes that this would help complete her dilation.

Now Amanda was able to get back in the tub, and she really got down to working!  With Grandma Cindy, Grandma Lori, Sarah, and Cindy H lined up at the tub, Keri tried to get some pictures.   We got some Body Balance for Jonathan, but he didn’t like it very much.  Amanda was worried that Jonathan would start to pass out, and wanted to make sure he got something to eat or drink.  I made a juice cocktail for him, got the crockpot in the bedroom, and held the fan for the rest of the pushing stage.   Amanda did her best to find a good pushing position that felt “right”.  The midwives suggested she get her feet flat in the tub while squatting.  As a contraction rolled in, Amanda pulled herself up by holding onto the side of the tub, and let her energy guide her.  As her pushes became closer and closer, Amanda focused her way through these final tough moments!

It wasn’t until these last few minutes that Amanda finally made *some noise* (much to Nikki’s delight).  Even though I could not see, I knew that when Amanda yelled “I CAN’T”, baby was close to crowning (or was)!  Keri took a picture and I had her show it to me, and sure enough, Cale was almost completely crowning.  I believe I heard Nikki peeing herself in the other room.

Amanda did everything the midwives suggested.  She pushed when she felt the urge, and listened to her body.  She stopped pushing when they told her to stop.  No easy task for anyone at that point!   Cale’s little body slipped out quite quickly after the crowning moment (about 3 minutes, maybe less), and I whipped out my cell phone for the time: 8:55.  (Although by Sarahs watch it was 8:56).

Laughter, tears and joy filled that bathroom as Cale introduced  us all with his first little cries.   I turned off the fan, and put it in the other room.  I moved out of the way so that Keri could take some good pictures.  I took a couple with my cell phone and headed off to the living room to show the family the new baby.

Nikki said she knew that when she heard Amanda yell “I can’t” that baby was only minutes away.. And she was right.   Nikki was summoned to the bathroom to get a glimpse of her new nephew and I started heating the rice bag for baby.

About 15 minutes later I came back to the bathroom to see if anyone needed help.  Amanda was getting out of the tub, and felt the placenta coming.  Jonathan looked at me and said “I think I’ll leave for this part and go see Cale”.  I nodded, looked down and the placenta plopped out.  Immediately I knew what Sarah was thinking as the blood begin to pour from Amanda.  It’s pretty normal to see a good gush after the placenta, but this was a bit much.  Sarah told Cindy to prepare for a gusher, and they went to fast to work.   I told Amanda to start nipple stimulation.  Jonathan brought Cale in, and I tried to get his little lips to brush against her nipple, since he wasn’t interested in latching yet.  Sarah got Amanda to her bed.  A bit of cohosh, and uterine massage and Amanda was doing just fine.  I grabbed the hydrogen peroxide to clean up the carpet.

As everyone took on the task of holding and kissing the new baby, I started cleaning the bathroom.   Sarah and I were about to flip a coin as to who was going to reach their arm in the birth tub and pull the drain when Lori came in and said “oh hell, I’ll do it”- and so she did!  I got the bathroom somewhat presentable again, and started clean up wherever else it was needed.

While Cindy H charted in the dining room, the grandpa’s came in to greet their grandson.  Soon after, Sarah helped Amanda get started breastfeeding for the first time.  Cale seemed to figure it out really quick :-)

Everyone had a turn seeing the new bundle of joy.

I said my goodbyes to Amanda and Cale at 9:55, and packed my stuff to go home.
Another wonderful birth.  A beautiful, happy family.   This is one  birth,  that will be forever imprinted on my heart and mind.   Thank you, Amanda, Jonathan and Cale for letting me be there for you during this special day,  I’ll cherish it forever.


Aunt Trisha