Kersti and Shepherd's Birth Story
After undergoing fertility treatments to get pregnant with Violet, we were overjoyed to conceive this baby naturally in just half the time! What a blessing this pregnancy was from the very start. My pregnancy was not without some very real challenges, but this baby was longed for and man were we grateful. We decided not to find out the sex of the baby this time and affectionally referred to the little one as “Squish.” It turned out to be a pretty fitting nickname :)
My birth story really starts about a week before my “due date.” Every evening for 2 weeks, I had contractions that would get as close as 2 minutes apart, lasting for 60 seconds, for 4-5 hours. They were crampy and not intense, but felt like the beginning of labor and always made me feel hopeful that our baby might join us that night! Then I would eventually decide to go to bed and get some rest... and they would stop completely as soon as I laid down. I knew that the baby would come in its own perfect time, but I was riding the rollercoaster and hoping that every night would be “it” - and it was emotionally tiring. We had a lot of fun those last couple of weeks as we waited. A special due date day and other fun activities each day that made me happy and helped pass the time with positivity. I was still surprised when I passed 41 weeks, as that was when Violet was born and I just didn’t expect this second baby to make us wait longer!
41+2 weeks was a Friday and Steve had the day off. We told Squish it was a great day to be born and went on to have a fun family day. We ended the evening getting happy hour nachos at Pedro’s (my favorite 😍) in downtown Los Gatos. On the way home I lamented to my mom and Steve, “well, looks like we’re not going to have a March 1st baby.” Laughing, Mom replied that she wasn’t counting me out until 10pm! (This picture -->
was taken right when we got home, less than 6 hours before Squish would be born!)
After having spent the last couple of weeks bouncing on the birth ball to encourage those evening contractions, I decided on the opposite approach this night. Clearly me bouncing was not putting me into labor! “Well screw it,” I thought, and decided to rest and take it easy instead. The baby would come when the baby was ready and I tried to lean into that. I took a nice bath and went to bed at 8:30pm because 41+ weeks pregnant ;)
Around 9:45ish I woke up in bed and was pleasantly surprised to notice that I had had a couple of contractions laying down in bed. That was different and I was hoping that different was good! I got up to go to the bathroom, got super nauseous, and threw up. They kept coming every 2-3 minutes and, while not super intense, were definitely stronger than the warmup ones had been. I texted my mom a heads up at 10:05pm, followed quickly by the birth team at 10:15pm. At this point I was still saying, “no promises, but something feels different.”
I walked around the dark, quiet house while my little family slept, timing my contractions, picking up a few things, lighting my candles, and getting excited. Was our baby coming tonight? It was soon clear that this was the real deal. Contractions were coming close and quickly getting much stronger. I had been worried that I wouldn’t know the difference between the warmup contractions that had been happening each night and real labor until it was too late - but it was pretty clear and I remember being grateful for that. I woke Steve up around 10:40pm and asked him if he was ready to have a baby tonight :) He was so excited and ran around on an adrenaline high until Squish was born! I was already moaning through contractions and asked him to start getting the tub ready. He sent a text to the birth team and while he was texting and I was moaning, I told him not to dilly dally! 8 minutes after I woke him up, he asked my mom to come out and help and 2 minutes after that they had asked the midwives to come (10:50pm). I suggested that we wait a little bit longer before having everyone come, but they insisted. Glad they did :)
Contractions were coming hard and strong. Like a wave moving through my body, each one coursed through me with invigorating power. It was hard, but it was GOOD hard - and I was so ready to meet my baby. I knew this was what needed to happen and I didn’t dread it, but looked forward in anticipation to birthing my sweet babe. The baby was really coming. This was happening!
Steve was busy working on getting the tub ready. My mom was making up our bed and coming over to me during contractions to offer comforting massage and counter pressure. I had secluded myself mostly in the bathroom, just out of the commotion and bustle of the preparation. It was clear that things were moving quickly and everyone was busy getting their jobs done. Standing over the bathroom counter, I swayed and breathed as the contractions intensified. At 11:15pm I heard our midwives, Hope and Christine, walk in the door with a midwife’s perfect timing. 3 minutes later, I felt a bubble and then a pop and watched as my waters released in a splash onto the floor. Immediately I noticed they were stained brown. “My water just broke!” I called out from the bathroom, “and it’s all brown.” I realized I had been so focused on coping with the contractions that I wasn’t actually sure if I had felt the baby move since I had been awake. Hope was right there with a hug and a smile. Knowing that we had chosen not to have any doppler monitoring or ultrasound during the whole pregnancy, she kindly asked if she could have a listen to the baby. I agreed and immediately the little “thump, thump” filled the tiny bathroom. Smiling I said, “that’s the first time I’ve heard that!” The heart rate was happily in the 130-140’s and Hope asked if I was reassured after seeing the meconium. I was. We were good. We could do this.
The contraction after my waters released, I definitely noticed more pressure. My vocalizing got lower and more guttural as I coped with the building pressure. Around this time, Steve came into the bathroom to attach the hose to the shower and I moved just outside of the bathroom into a small space by our bed. Standing over the bed, with Hope and my mom beside me, the intensity grew. I felt my body begin to nudge the baby down and assisted with grunty half pushes as I felt led. Hope, knowing that I’d prefer to limit the amount of doppler monitoring the baby received, tried a few times to listen with a fetoscope, but wasn’t able to hear enough. She asked again if she could listen with the doppler and I, of course, agreed. Perfect heart tones, once again.
We had my worship music playlist going in the background, but the only song I can remember hearing during this time was “Stand in Your Love,” by Bethel Music and Josh Baldwin. I sang along to the chorus, “my fear doesn’t stand a chance when I stand in your love,” and felt the power of that truth as I consciously chose to stand in Love instead of fear. I wish I had noticed the song that was playing when the baby was born, but I’m glad to have this memory of song connected to our birth.
Steve was occupied trying to get the connection from the shower to the hose to work so that he could fill up the tub. Unfortunately it wasn’t connecting properly. He kept trying, in hopes that we would have time to get me in the tub for a water birth, but eventually I called him off. I needed him more than I needed the water and told him to forget the tub and come be with me. I was kneeling beside the bed now and he climbed on top of the bed and held onto me as he offered sweet encouragement and told me how proud he was. I had my teammate in the game with me now, and it was just what I needed! At one point he tried to tell me a funny story during a contraction and I quickly shushed him! He tried again in between contractions and managed to get a smile :) I was so glad to have him with me.
Violet, who had shockingly managed to sleep through all of the excitement in the same room she was in, finally woke up around 11:30pm. My mom grabbed her from her bed and talked her through what was happening. She was excited and loved having everyone at her house! She came over to me and rubbed my back, telling me, “good job, Mama!” My little doula girl. I stole a quick hug in between contractions and then she went back to my mom.
Kneeling beside the bed, the pressure was increasing, as I continued the grunty pushing. I said to my team, “I’m obviously feeling pushy, but I know it’s not the intense pressure that I need to feel.” Hope asked if I wanted to check if I was able to feel the baby’s head. I reached in and Squish was still pretty high - I could barely feel the head. I think this was around 11:35pm. I didn’t like kneeling in the cramped location I was in and wanted to move, but nothing else sounded any better. I had the idea that I could make it into the shower, but that didn’t happen either :)
Steve had moved behind me and was supporting me as I kneeled. Hope was on the ground next to me, her assistant, Christine, quietly charting in the background. My mom was holding Violet on the bed next to me so that she would be able to see. In my midwives’ birth chart, they noted me as beginning to push at 11:42pm. This was when I got loud ;) Violet says I roared her baby out like a mama lion and she’s not wrong! I felt the head descending and that crazy pressure that I knew meant Squish was coming to me. I was able to see a sliver of the head in the mirror on the ground. Assured that we were almost done, I put my hands down and caught our baby’s head into both of my waiting hands. Catching my breath, I stayed on both knees, rubbing the baby’s head gently for a quiet moment. I heard someone ask Violet if she could see Baby’s head, and she said she could. The next wave came and it was time to birth the shoulders. I’m not sure why I was surprised by how difficult the shoulders were for me. It was only about 1 minute from the birth of the head to the birth of the shoulders, but it was a long minute as I pushed long and hard to make them move. I felt like I was giving it my all and nothing was happening. Summoning all my strength, I took my hands away from the baby’s head and leaned back a little. I felt the shoulders finally wriggle free and immediately reached down to bring the baby to my chest at 11:48pm! Instant relief/joy/love/contentment/bliss/awe- there is NOTHING like that moment of pulling your wet, slippery baby to you for the very first time! “You’re here, baby! Oh, you're here.”
"I guess I'm just not a quiet birther!" I laughed, "and I still don't like that pushing part." Someone asked if we were ready to find out if we had a boy or a girl! We flipped Squish around and Steve was able to announce, “It’s a BOY!” as his eyes filled with tears! What a whirlwind we had all just been through - but our SON was here and we were so happy! Basking in his freshness, we stared at him in adoration. “Hi, Shepherd! We love you so much. I'm so glad you're here.”
Since I had never moved from my spot just outside the bathroom, Shepherd was born in a tiny little corner on the floor. With blood and meconium all over the floor, I wasn’t able to stand up to move to bed. Steve, fireman-lifted me up, while I clutched onto the baby on my stomach, and into the bed I went for some blissful new family snuggles. Violet cuddled up to me and Shepherd, with Steve right next to her. She was a little put off by his squishy, slippery head! Shepherd latched immediately like a champ and the placenta came after about 20 minutes.
After the placenta was born, Steve, my dad, and my brother (who had come in to say hello) jerry-rigged the hose to fill up the birth tub and my mom brewed some postpartum healing herbs. Shepherd and I climbed into the tub and enjoyed a beautiful, amazing herbal soak. After all the chaos of the last couple of hours, it was a moment of calm and peace for which I am so grateful! After a bit of time on our own, I invited Violet to come in with us and she was so excited. She did a great job staying calm and still and cuddled right up to me and Shep. Steve was right outside the tub, holding up the placenta bowl that kept wanting to sink ;) It was such a special time as a new family.
We crawled back into bed and I got stitched up. I had another 2nd degree tear in the same place that I tore before. I was bummed to have torn again, but thankfully I have healed up pretty easily both times!
Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to bake Shepherd’s birthday cake during early labor (we had his “party” the next day!), but my mom found a little brownie bite and stuck a candle in it. We all sang him happy birthday and Violet blew out his candle. Hope did his newborn exam and (no surprise!) he was just perfect in every way :) Steve and Violet cut his umbilical cord together nearly 3 hours after his birth. He weighed 8lbs 5oz and was 20 3/4” long with a head an inch bigger than Violet’s was! Violet got to do skin to skin with Shepherd next, which she had been very anxiously awaiting, and I don’t think I’ve ever been happier or more proud to see both of my babies snuggling together.
After having a snack and being totally taken care of in every way, our birth team tucked us in and headed out into the early morning around 4:00am. Steve and I just marveled at this tiny, perfect human that we had created. What wonder in it all. My mom hung around for a bit longer, helping us get Violet calm and back in bed. Around 6am, Steve crawled into bed to snuggle with her for a few hours and I cuddled our fresh baby on my chest for about an hour until he asked for more milk. When Violet woke up a few hours later, it was like Christmas morning! She ran over to our bed and asked if her baby was still here! We all crawled into bed together and have pretty much stayed there since. My milk came in on day 2, the little chunk was 1.5 ounces over his birth weight by day 4, and was up to 8lbs 11oz by day 6! Our little Squish. He’s been just amazing.
What an amazing, empowering, exciting birth experience. What a magical postpartum babymoon. What a beautiful, beautiful baby. What an awesome God. We are so filled with gratitude for our newest blessing, and for everyone and everything that went into getting him here safely and peacefully. We can’t help but worship. “If creations sings your praises, so will I.”
9:45 woke up to contractions in bed
10:05 text Mom to update
10:15 first text to birth team
10:40 woke Steve up
10:48 Mom came out
10:50 asked midwives to come
11:15 midwives arrive
11:18 water breaks
11:48 SHEPHERD born!
Photography by the amazing Campbell Kamine Photography