New Mom

Harlow Kristianna's Birth Story - "The Day You Were Born"

Introducing Baby Harlow Kristianna

Introducing Baby Harlow Kristianna

It was like any other Thursday night. We were still a week away from our due date and I was positive you were going to arrive fashionably late... just like your mama! Your daddy was out of state for a work meeting in Iowa as I had no contractions (even Braxton Hicks) by this time and we were positive your debut was still at least a week out. 

I was itching to put the final touches on your nursery and there was one special item (an elephant mobile) that I had been pining after for weeks but had to go to Woodbury to pick it up in the store. I decided that tonight was the night to complete your “nest.” I packed Scout (our wiener dog) into the car and we made a girls’ road trip over to Buy Buy Baby in Woodbury. On the way there, your BG (Daddy’s mom) called me to check and see how I was doing since Daddy was out of town. She seemed quite concerned that I was out driving by myself “all the way to Woodbury.” I explained that I felt fine and that it was only Woodbury, not Albert Lea or Duluth and that she needn’t worry. She made me promise to text her when Scout and I were safe at home.

I found the mobile within a few minutes of the store closing and got back in the car to head home to Edina. Then your Papa Joe called me (Mama’s dad) and also was curious to know if I had felt any “stirrings” of Tiny T (what we called you since we didn’t know if you were a boy or girl). Again, I tried to assure him that I was positive you would be coming AFTER your due date and that with your Daddy out of town, I was sure it wouldn’t be happening in the next 24 hours. Little did I know what the next 24 hours would hold...

I returned home and decided that I would put the mobile up myself and take that final nursery picture to post on Facebook, indicating to the world, but mostly myself, that we were officially “ready” for you to arrive! I talked with your Daddy on the phone for a few minutes before bed and went to sleep.

Then it happened. At about 12:15 a.m., I felt my first contraction. It was no “fake” contraction or false labor, either. I had never felt a contraction before and it wasn’t painful or even uncomfortable at this time... just “present.” I KNEW this was the beginning of your journey into the world and our lives. I tried to get back to sleep, as this is what everyone had advised me to do when I felt like labor was beginning. And I did sleep. Until about 1 am, when the next contraction came.

I decided to get up and go to the bathroom and then call your Daddy. I woke him between 1:30 and 2 a.m. and told him that labor had started, but that I was fine and wasn’t feeling like things were progressing at a rate where he needed to be alarmed or even change his plans. He was planning to be home by 4:00 p.m. later that day (Friday) anyway. I had heard that many first-time moms have long labors, and I was preparing myself for a long labor, possibly even several days. Again, I went back to sleep.

Again, I awoke to another contraction, this time around 2:25 a.m. Could it be that the contractions were picking up speed? I decided to stay awake and just time/monitor the gaps between contractions to be more certain. As it turned out, contractions had indeed picked up in pace and were between 20-25 minutes apart. I tried my best to remain calm and decided to call your Daddy again just to give him an update. When we spoke, he seemed a bit more concerned and urged me to at least call the midwife pager and alert them of my status. He wanted me to call him back after I had spoken to a midwife, so I agreed to do that. It must’ve been about 4 in the morning when I received a call back from the midwife, Katrina, who asked me some questions about how I was feeling, the contraction rate and intensity, and also about your Daddy’s ETA. I remember her saying, “Well, if it were me and my husband were that far away, I would call him and tell him to start heading home right away. He probably won’t be able to eat, sleep or even focus on work much if he knows his wife is in labor!” She also encouraged me to call back should things change or pick up in pace in the next few hours. 

I called your Daddy (again!) and told him that he should probably cancel his meetings and start heading back to Minnesota, since he had about a 6 hour drive ahead of him. Contractions were now between 15-20 minutes apart. He urged me to call Amber, our doula, to see if she could come to our house and be with me until he could get home. He said he would get on the road as soon as he could. I needed to get up and take Scout outside for her morning potty break.

We ventured down the nine flights in our building’s elevator and slowly made our way to the back door. We walked around in the grass patch for a few minutes and she took care of her business. We headed back inside because after morning outings, always comes breakfast! When we got back in the apartment, I fed her and as I bent over to put the food in her bowl, I noticed that the contractions were now coming more quickly. I timed the gaps between them for a few minutes and I was now at 5-6 minutes apart! This couldn’t be happening... your Daddy was still hours away!

I called him to get an update on when he’d left and informed him that things had really sped up (I think because of the activity of taking Scout out). At this point, I wouldn’t say that I was in a panic; but I was definitely pretty anxious about the possibility that you could arrive and your father might miss your birth! I asked him if we could pray together over the phone as I just didn’t know what else to do. We asked God for peace in labor and that, if it was His will, things could slow down until your Daddy got home. I felt a sense of relief after the prayer in that we’d placed the situation in God’s hands. I also told your Daddy that Amber was on her way and at least I’d have someone (someone very knowledgeable and encouraging) by my side until he got back. 

Amber arrived shortly after my conversation with Daddy and I updated her on where things were at. I had started writing down the times of my contractions on a piece of scratch paper so we could look for patterns and truly capture how long I’d been in labor. She took over charting the times and also provided me with some comfort during my contractions by applying pressure to my lower back, which was where I was starting to feel most of my labor pains. We reviewed the gaps between contractions and I was slowing down... 12-14 minutes between them again! God had heard and answered our prayer! I feel quite sure that He also orchestrated us contracting Amber as a doula (another story for another time) so that she could be there for me/us during these crucial moments of labor. She did a fantastic job of distracting me, chatting with me and alleviating any remaining traces of anxiety I had about your Daddy still not being home.

Amber helped me with water and snacks throughout the next several hours, making sure I kept my fluids and energy levels up. With each contraction getting stronger and more intense, she helped me find positions and comfort measures to endure each “wave.” We labored on the floor/hands-and-knees, on the couch/on my side, and on the yoga ball. I continued to struggle with the back labor and felt that being on my hands and knees in a modified downward dog position provided the most relief. 

Finally, at about 2:45, your Daddy walked through the door! I can honestly say, next to the day he showed up for our wedding, that was probably the happiest I’ve ever been to see him!!! We all decided to eat a good hearty lunch together in the event that things should speed up again. And that’s exactly what happened. In just the few short minutes following your Daddy’s arrival, the contractions began to pick up in pace and intensity again. (It’s pretty amazing to reflect on the mind/body connection and how I witnessed this in real time during your birth!) We were back down to about 6 minutes again and after that point, I have to admit, things got a little blurry for me. I remember eating some of my salad and burrito. I also recall Amber suggesting that maybe I should move to the bathtub for some extra relief for my back pain. A bath was drawn and I remember there being candles and very dim lighting, which was very calming. I don’t really know how long I was in the tub for, but Amber sat right beside me coaching and praising me through each contraction. I also remember asking if we could bring the ball into the tub and just turn on the shower and let the stream of water beat down on my lower back as I hugged the ball. My request was granted and I got through the next however many contractions in this manor. 

Other than that, I can reflect on the experience of going very deeply into myself and blocking out much of whatever else was happening around me. I do know I was repeating the lyrics of U2’s “Every Breaking Wave” over and over in my mind, both as a focus point AND as a distraction. I was moaning and breathing very deeply with each contraction and I also found myself calling on God’s strength and the strength of my own mother (your Grandma Kristie), who passed away several years before you were born. I know she was present there with me the entire time, cheering me on and nudging me closer to meeting YOU! At some point, Amber told me I should get out of the tub and try to go to the bathroom. I was able to get out of the tub and do this, and I’m not sure, but she felt that this was when my water broke as she heard a big “sploosh” after I had gone. I also know that this was when I started to push little pushes, even though I hadn’t been told to do so. I just felt that that’s what my body wanted me to do. I can vaguely remember speaking with Rachel, the midwife on-call, but I don’t really recall the details of our conversation. After this, Daddy and Amber made it pretty clear that we needed to get to the birth center as soon as we could. I was still in a robe after my bath, with hair wet and no clothes on. As they struggled to help me get dressed between contractions, which now must’ve been coming between 2-3 minutes apart, we packed up the rest of our birth supplies and made our way down the hallway to the elevator.

The walk to the elevator to the underground garage seemed like the longest trek of my life and we had to have been stopping every ten-fifteen feet or so for me to lean against the wall in an effort to get through the next contraction. We finally made it to the car and I remember dreading getting in as I knew the ride over there was not going to be an easy one. We were on our way in a matter of minutes, with Amber following us in her car. 

Again, I was drawn inward and for most of the ride to the birth center, all I could do was focus on the digital clock in our dashboard and remind myself that each contraction was only one minute, 60 seconds of discomfort, but 60 seconds closer to seeing your face. Each pothole, each bump on the road or brick-paved street in historic St. Paul felt like a knife being twisted in my lower back. I hoped that when I arrived at the birth center, I could ask for those sterile water injections the midwives had talked about in our prenatal appointments. I was desperate for some relief. I should also add that I was continuing to push at the conclusion of each contraction at this point... it just felt like the right thing to 

When we arrived at the birth center and made our way inside to the birthing suite, the large birth tub/bath had already been drawn, and there was dim lighting and some LED candles burning... I think. I remember marching into the room and asking Rachel, “Ok, what now? Just tell me what to do- I need a plan.” I inquired about the water injections and some comfort for the back labor, to which she replied, “Let’s get you on the bed and see how far you’re dilated and we’ll go from there.”

That’s all I needed to hear, as I quickly made my way to the bed as if to say, “Ok-
let’s DO this!” She examined my cervix and stated, “Mara, the quickest solution to eliminating your back pain is just to have your baby. You are fully dilated to a 10 [cm], so let’s just get you in the tub!” That was probably the fastest I’d moved the whole labor, practically tearing off my clothes to get into the water. 

The back pain was so intense at this point, but it did serve as my motivation to push and ride the wave of each contraction. My whole birthing team (Rachel, Brittany the RN, Amber and Daddy) was so supportive and encouraging. I can still hear their voices: “Mara, you’re SO strong! You can do this! You’re almost there!” Rachel did a great job of telling me when to push and when to rest/slow down; Amber was reminding me to “bear down” and with each push, my low moans and breathing got louder and louder. I was switching positions too, from hands and knees to reclining back. Rachel would use her mirror and flashlight in the water to check the progress and also checking your heart rate from time to time.

At some point, I moved into the recline position and knew I would stay there until you came out. It wasn’t very many more contractions and pushes before you crowned and your little head was ready to pop out. We were so close to meeting you!! I pushed through another couple of contractions and the strongest burning sensation I’d ever felt down there (now I know why they call it the Ring of Fire!). Finally, your head came out and Rachel said I probably only needed to push once or twice more before your shoulders and the rest of you emerged. Those last few pushes and contractions were a blur, as I was so focused on finally meeting our son or daughter! 

Your Daddy helped to catch you underwater when you were fully born at 8:26 p.m. on Friday, March 4th. Daddy and Rachel placed you on my chest and I immediately started crying tears of joy when I looked into your bright eyes. I felt the warmth of your body against my heart and I knew I was instantly addicted to you. I had loved you all along, before you were conceived and during pregnancy, but now seeing you, my love for you had grown deeper and our connection had become stronger. You were so calm when you came out, not even crying as you took your first few breaths of this new world around you. We still didn’t know if you were a boy or a girl, until Rachel suggested I hold you up to get a glimpse. I lifted you off my chest and had to move your umbilical cord out of the way before we could see that you were our little girl, our angelic Harlow Kristianna, named after your Grandma Kristie Ann. It was such a joy to finally meet you!

More Birth Photos

Baby Friendly Activities for New Moms

Baby Friendly Exercises

Being a new mom can be isolating at times. Even though you are home and loving snuggling up to the new love of your life, you may also be itching to get out of the house and interact with other adults! The good news is that there are so many activities available now for moms and babies in the community. From swim and exercise classes to play groups and mom and baby yoga, with a little effort to get out of the house, you and your baby can be social butterflies in no time. Here’s a list of ideas and local options for new moms in the Twin Cities.

  • Breastfeeding Support Groups: Breastfeeding support groups are a great first social activity for mom and baby as you will find the littlest of little babies at these gatherings and you can gain valuable help and knowledge from a lactation consultant. This is a great way to get help with baby’s latch or transitioning off the nipple shield and many other breastfeeding challenges that may arise. You are also usually able to do pre and post-feed weigh-ins to determine how many ounces your baby is getting per nursing session. Here are some local options for moms looking to connect with other nursing moms.
  • Mom and Baby Yoga: Mom and baby yoga is another wonderful bonding activity for you and your little one in those early months. Most mom and baby classes are open to babies as young as 8 weeks of age and involve small motions for baby that can aid in digestion, sleep and soothing while providing a relaxing way for mom to distress. Mom and baby yoga classes are anything goes as far as breastfeeding, diaper changes and crying babes, so do not worry if your baby isn’t having a ‘Zen’ day. Check out these locations for mom and baby yoga classes in the community.
  • Story Time: You are never too young for the joy of reading. You may have even read to your baby in the womb! Now that your little one is here, baby story times are a great way to get out of the house, meet other moms and enjoy a story or two with your baby.
  • Baby Signing Classes: Baby signing classes are a great way to jump start excellent communication between you and your baby. Although your baby may not be able to return sign with you until 8 or 9 months, they understand well before they are able to communicate. The earlier you begin signing with your baby, the earlier he will be able to communicate his needs to you. Baby signing is associated with earlier ability to communicate, decreased crying and even possibly a few extra IQ points down the road. Here are a few options for baby sign language classes in your area:
  • Music Classes: What better way to connect with your sweet baby than through music, movement and play. Music classes offer the opportunity to expose you baby to different sounds, songs and instruments as well as meet other moms and babies in your community. There are a few great options for music classes in the community including:
  • Swim Classes: Parent and baby swim classes are the perfect opportunity to expose your baby to the water for the first time and begin to learn some basic safety skills like back floating, flipping over from back to front and brief submersion. Most swim schools will allow you to take your first parent and baby swim class around 6 months. Typically the classes will be short to accommodate baby’s needs but will allow time for some simple instruction, games and singing. It is never too early to begin educating yourself and your child on water safety. Here are a few options for baby swim classes in the area:
  • Baby Friendly Exercise Classes: Once you’ve been cleared by your midwife or OB for exercise, you may be wondering how in the world you will find time to work out with a baby. Fear not though, there are actually many options these days for the moms who love fitness. From stroller exercise groups to babywearing barre,  these are fitness classes where moms can actually bring baby along for the ride while she gets her sweat on! Here are just a few options in the area:
  • Mom’s Groups: Lastly, mom groups are a real thing these days. They are born on Facebook, Meetup.com, through churches, birth centers and friend groups alike. Some mom groups are brought together by certain parenting philosophies or interests and others are created simply by location. Whatever the theme or lack thereof, joining a local mom group will be one of the best things you can do in that first year of being a mom to connect with other moms who are going through the same phase of life and have children that are the same age as yours. These moms will become your buddies, the ones you can talk poop and breastfeeding with without batting an eyelash. Their kids will be your kids’ playmates and hopefully your spouses will even get to know one another during family activities. There are many ways to get involved in a local moms’ group but here are just a few ideas.

As you can see, although you may feel as though you’ve been one with your couch and the Boppy pillow since baby was born, there are MANY options for you and your little one to get out of the house and connect with other new moms and babies. Give different types of activities a try to see what works for you and your baby. Try out a couple different mom groups until you find your people. Being a new parent is one of the most exciting, wonderful, terrifying things you have likely ever gone through. Why not make a few friends to join you on the journey?

For questions about natural birth, pregnancy, postpartum opportunities, classes and more, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center.