Expecting the unexpected

Maybe you’ve penned a three-page birth plan. Maybe you tell everyone you’ll be flexible. But no matter how much you imagine what giving birth will be like, babies often have plans of their own. Three local moms shared their very different birth stories with us, in their own words.

The Surprise Water Birth

Parents: Amanda and Justin Garvin
Baby: Clarabel Rose Garvin
Birth Center: Canyon Medical Center in Portland
Photographer: Nakalan McKay Photography

It all started on a Friday, one day after my due date. I had had an aggressive acupuncture appointment to get things rolling and began feeling tension in my back by that evening. By Monday, I woke up thinking my water broke, but, disappointingly, it was just my mucous plug. By that evening, I realized the back pain I had been trying to ignore was occurring at the same time as I felt my stomach tighten. Hello! This was back labor. I called my midwife around 9:30 p.m. and she told me it would probably be sometime tomorrow so to get some rest. Over the next few hours I tried sleeping.


By 1 a.m. I was in the tub, but still not convinced it was labor. I just thought my body was getting ready and I possibly could have days to go. So I tried to sleep on the couch. After jumping off the couch a few times in a row in pain, I realized I might be further along than I thought and I woke up Justin, my husband. He looked at the app I had been tracking contractions on and said they were four to five minutes apart for the last few hours. He called our midwife and we all agreed we would meet at the birth center in an hour, at 4:30 a.m. (What we found out later was that he didn’t know how to use the app and at that point contractions were actually one to two minutes apart and had been for about an hour.)

Our 25-minute drive ended up taking only eight minutes. (Apparently, Justin really did not want to deliver a baby on the road.) As I swung my legs out of the car a contraction hit and, bam, I had to push! Justin came running to my side of the car and said, “Don’t you dare push! Let’s get inside.” My husband is the most chill guy, but I saw a bit of fear in his eyes and I thought this is just what it felt like to finally be in labor.

We walked to the door and realized we had beat the midwife there. While standing at the door phoning the midwife, I remember rationally saying, “I seriously have to push. This is not good.” About two minutes later our midwives arrived.

We made it inside and they got the tub going, because I thought that might help me relax. My husband was at my side telling me to breathe, focus and keep my chin down. I was in my zone though. As they prepared to deliver a baby, I was concerned about getting our labor music playing and groaning. I thought those distractions would help me ignore the strong urge to push.

Finally they had things ready and my midwife said she wanted to check me. Her eyes grew wide as she said, “Ten centimeters!” All we could do was laugh. My husband and I had taken Bradley Method classes, which teach couples how to manage pain and deliver naturally. I felt like I had so many tricks in the bag to still cope with the pain. Heck, we hadn’t even pulled out the labor snacks yet!


Then my midwife told me to take off my skirt and I was like, “What do you mean? I’m not having this baby here.” She said, “Well, you better move now, if you don’t want a water birth.” Honestly, there was no way I was standing up at that point so we agreed — water birth it was. Three pushes later, I felt my midwife shove her hand against the baby’s head to provide counter pressure and then on the next push out came our little Clarabel (Clara) Rose at 5:12 am — only 42 minutes after arriving at the birth center. We were both in shock that it had happened so fast.

While we got the natural birth that we wanted, Clara’s birth was so not what we planned. But I loved how we both just laughed as our little girl was born. And how we had a water birth. I mean, heck, how Portland is that?!

The “Back again?” Birth

Parents: Jessie and Chet Joye
Baby: Charlotte Mae Joye
Birth Center: PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center, Vancouver, Wash.
Photographer: Weeno Photography

When I was 9 months, 3 weeks pregnant I felt as hot as a fully preheated oven and the only bit of peace I could find was to cram a portable AC right up my summer muumuu. I know — not terribly ladylike, but I had a double chin, basketball feet and consistent contractions and didn’t care. It was a Friday and I thought the contractions I was having were excruciating, but now I’d describe them as uncomfortable.

That night, I was sure “this was it.” My husband rushed me to the hospital. I called my mom, texted all my friends. Who is going to question an angry, hot pregnant woman? Well, the doctor, that’s who. He told me to wait for my water to break, and sent me on my way.

I spent the next day counting the rotations of my ceiling fan to try to forget the pain. I was sure it was time! So we trekked to the hospital, again. And then they sent me home. Again.

At least they gave me a shot of morphine. But as it turned out, I’m allergic. I spent the whole night vomiting. But at least all the heaving helped my water break!

Back to the hospital we went. Third time is the charm, right? Nope. This time, the doctor instructed me not to come back until I was not able to breathe during my contractions.

I spent the rest of the day in bed, moaning and turning and crawling into a ball. Was it hot? I had no idea! What did my husband do? Who knows? Then finally, Sunday evening I was in so much pain that I punched my headboard. I told Chet, “I don’t care if I can still breathe. They are going to give me something for this pain.”

We pulled into the hospital and I made it to the nurse’s station. They all chimed in saying, “Back again?”

I didn’t want to talk, I just wanted them to give me some drugs. A new doctor came in. I told her I knew I wasn’t supposed to come back until I wasn’t breathing through my contractions, but it hurt way too much. Then she said, “You are dilated to a 6!”

What?! Sometimes I take people too literally. I had labored through some massive contractions at home because I thought the previous doctor meant something happens to a woman when she is having contractions and she will actually stop breathing.

I got my epidural just in time. They said to not move and I didn’t — even through the worst contraction. This was the scariest point of my delivery. But the epidural worked instantly. I felt nothing! AMEN!

My family doctor who had seen me through my pregnancy came in when I was dilated to a 9. Everyone was joking and laughing while we waited. And my amazing husband even bought me a “push present” — I have no idea how he knew about push presents.

Finally — finally — it was time to push. Together we held our breath and pushed, my husband, the doctor and me. At one point my very well-educated doctor hollered, “Push like you’re pushing a tampon out!” Hold up! Isn’t that what the string is for? Then the baby’s head started to come out. My doctor said to keep pushing until she said stop. I felt like I was going to pass out, but I pushed. Then out came a baby — our baby.

My sweet baby girl was in my arms at last. She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I was in love and never imagined how perfect this moment would be — no matter how long it took to get there.

The Last-minute C-section

Parents: Ashley and Kellan Perlberg
Baby: Lincoln Thomas Perlberg
Hospital: Portland Providence Medical Center
Photographer: Kristina Wunsch, Poppi Photography

When I passed my due date, I was so done being pregnant. Five days past my due date, I decided I was too fat and I needed to have this baby now!

I sent my dad and Kellen to the store to buy some castor oil. I put one tablespoon in some orange juice and chugged it down. Mmmm, nothing like drinking oil. Went to bed, woke up four hours later and, bam! Water everywhere! No lie. It was like the movies, and I was a little shocked. I was not expecting that. Then … then came the world’s worst pain ever. If I had only known. My contractions started every 20 to 30 seconds immediately. No five to seven minutes happening here. The castor oil worked! Well, after a very dramatic 40 minutes to get to the car (I had to drop down on my knees every time a contraction hit) we got to the hospital.

We labored off and on in a tub. I have photographed two other births, and attended my niece’s birth. I knew from those three that birth plans go out the window. I wasn’t for or against drugs, but I was hoping for a vaginal birth.

We had two doulas, Jesse and Christine. They knew all the right things to say. At one point, I said I couldn’t do it anymore. I just was exhausted. Christine didn’t give me that option, and just let me get through each contraction as they came. Honestly, I don’t think I could have gotten through 10 hours of no drugs without them.

I finally got an epidural, and in one of the pictures you can see the relief on my face. Then I got stuck at eight centimeters for six hours. The midwife came in, and said that it was time to start thinking about some other options. We tried some more meds, and after an hour and a half, the dreaded C word came into play. I was pretty disappointed. We were scared, and upset. But I then changed my thinking to, “This is the first of many things that are going to happen as a mom that aren’t according to what I want.”

Kellen got into his onesie, and they wheeled me off. Kellen’s always been my rock. During the C-section he stayed by me the whole time. He didn’t leave my side. Then they cut me wide open, and pulled an 8 pound 8 ounce, 21 and a 1/4 inches long boy out.

When they showed me him over the curtain, he was all white and gross and squished. I thought he looked like an alien! I remember telling Kellen in the most endearing way possible that he was ugly. When we got into the recovery room, and the baby sorta aired out a bit, I took him all in. All of this kid that had been growing inside of me for the past nine months. I grew him, and there was a bond. He turned immediately cute. He was finally out, and finally mine! It wasn’t how we imagined it would be, but it was perfect. It was our story.

Denise Castañon
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