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  • Anna Sutkowski

A Very Special Birth Story

When I found out my sister was pregnant, I knew I wanted to be there... Honestly, it was a major factor for our relocation to St. Louis. If she would accept my presence, I wanted to act as her doula. And as it turns out, we were on the same page there! My niece was due in May, and I didn’t live in St. Louis until mid April, so we had one virtual prenatal visit, and two in person visits in May. My whole family was excited and Leah and I talked through all kinds of birth, pregnancy, and postpartum topics.

In the 40th week of pregnancy, Leah, my mom, and I took a couple long walks that ended in ice cream. Leah experienced subtle twinges of contractions for a couple days, and after one of our walks, Leah woke up around 3am unable to go back to sleep... Birth was happening soon! Leah went to her 40 week appointment that day, and found out she was 1 centimeter dilated… hours of sleep behind and no further dilated than at her 37 week appointment. We talked on the phone after the appointment- Leah cried. She felt so frustrated that she wasn’t further along, and she was so mad at early labor. I offered some reassurance and suggestions to cope with early labor. They went home and settled back to the schedule of the day with work and finishing up the last details of the baby’s room. Shortly after the OB appointment, contractions intensified and Leah needed some support from her husband,Taylor, to work through contractions.

That evening I was in their neighborhood, so I called to see if they’d want me to stop by… They did. Taylor wanted a bit of a break, and Leah wanted a new perspective. When I arrived, they had Boy Meets World (love that show!) playing on the television in the background, Leah knelt over a birth ball, and Taylor offered hip squeezes. I subbed in for Taylor and added in some massage and some additional position ideas. We hung out like that for a little while. Eventually we all had a bit of a heart to heart… did they want to tuck themselves in for another night of attempted sleep or get up and moving. They wanted to move, and Leah couldn’t fathom the idea of getting comfortable enough to sleep.

After talking a little bit about baby A’s position, we decided to try some abdominal lift and tucks to encourage baby A to tuck her chin and drop into the pelvis. Contractions had progressed in spacing and intensity very, very slowly, so we felt good about trying to use Leah’s positioning to positively impact baby A’s position to hopefully meet her earthside soon! Ten intense contractions later, it worked! Things definitely intensified. Leah mentioned feeling frustrated that she had to pee so often because she always had strong contractions while sitting on the toilet. I said, “That’s amazing! What do you think about laboring in the bathroom for a while?” Leah and Taylor laughed and said okay. I grabbed my heating pad, some pillows, and our waters, and we all squeezed into the bathroom. Leah alternated between laboring on the toilet, standing, and leaning on the sink/wall. Taylor and I both took turns and worked together to provide pressure on her hips and back. Eventually we moved into the bedroom to try some belly sifting, kneeling positions, and side lying releases. Labor continued to move along. At some point Leah started crying and Taylor announced that the contractions timing indicated it could be a good time to go to the hospital.

Leah felt concerned she wouldn’t be far enough along to stay at the hospital. She didn’t want to go too soon. Taylor decided to get the car ready for when the timing did feel right, and I suggested Leah could try to eat some food and take a shower before leaving. A few bites of a PB&J later, they were off! Because of Covid-19 the hospital policy restricted the amount of people Leah could have as support, so I headed home. We planned to check in throughout the night as labor progressed towards birth.

At the hospital Leah chose an epidural, became best friends with the anesthesiologist (haha!), and both her and Taylor even got a few hours of sleep. We talked around 6 or 7 in the morning- she had progressed quite a bit and her and baby A looked great! Around noon, Leah entered the pushing stage of birth. She worked SO HARD to push baby A into the world, and around 2pm her epidural began to run out. By the time the hospital staff realized, Leah had gone from feeling relaxed to feeling the full brunt of intense contractions. She cried and everyone just kept telling her not to cry, which made her cry more, so between sobs she said “Taylor call Anna.”

I picked up the phone full of anticipatory, excited energy. Taylor said, “Leah told me to call you. You’re on speaker phone.” I heard sobbing. I centered myself and began talking to Leah in the calmest, most soothing voice I could find. “Leah put your hands on your belly and take a deep breath. Breath in a way that moves your hands. Okay, do it again. Taylor gently rub the crease out of Leah’s forehead. Both of you relax your foreheads, unclench your jaw, let your shoulders drop, take a deep breath.” The crying subsided. “Okay Leah visualize holding baby A on your rocking chair in her room. Imagine wrapping her in the blankets waiting for her at home. You can do this.” I heard the OB come into the room to talk to Leah about bringing baby A into the world. She was getting close! When contractions came, Leah pushed with all her might. 30 minutes later baby A was here! I heard her cry through the phone, Leah cried, and the room seemed full of hustle and bustle. Taylor said “we’ll call you in a bit.” “Okay! Soak in those baby snuggles!” We hung up.

Adrenaline was coursing through me. I so badly wanted to know how the immediate postpartum was going, but I knew I needed to wait to hear from them. I didn’t really know what to do at that point… there was no way I’d be able to focus on work… I couldn’t call any of my family because I didn’t feel it was my news to share. So, I went for a walk and called one of my best friends. I told her the whole story and she happily listened. An hour or two later, I met my niece on a video call. It was amazing.


Leah is on the left. I'm on the right.
Baby Leah
Baby A
Little Leah

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