An unfiltered fire hose of flaming condemnation

The labor story, part two

Five years ago when I was experiencing postpartum depression with Leta I was actively seeing a therapist to try and talk my way up and out and through the darkness. This therapist is by far the best one I’ve ever seen, and I’ve recommended her to almost everyone I know. Have a hangnail? GO SEE THIS THERAPIST. She’s just totally no nonsense, out with it now, and will tell you exactly what you need to hear even if you don’t want to hear it. I cannot count the times she has rolled her eyes, shaken her head and said, “Well, Heather, if that wasn’t the stupidest thing you’ve ever done. Is it me, or do you just get dumber?”

One of the best pieces of advice she ever gave me was to hire a babysitter for a few hours a week so that I could take some time for myself, and that’s exactly what we did. Jon put an ad in the paper and we interviewed several potential candidates, and WOWEE was that ever an experiment in trying to keep our jaws from falling off our faces and bouncing on the floor. Some of the people who responded to the ad were just total nutjobs, people you would not trust with your pet rock let alone your infant, and I’m not even kidding, one woman casually mentioned that her sixteen-year-old daughter was pregnant and her eighteen-year-old son was in prison. BUT THAT’S NOT EVEN THE END OF IT. I guess she was excommunicated from the Mormon church because of some horrible indiscretions THAT SHE’D RATHER NOT TALK ABOUT. When all we asked was, “Tell us a little about yourself.”

Turns out that we hired the first person who responded to the ad, a delightfully fresh-faced eighteen-year-old named Katey who could speak in complete sentences and didn’t have a criminal record. I think I’ve mentioned her on this website a couple of times (let’s see, here and here and here). I even thank her in the acknowledgements section of my book for giving me the time that I needed to find the mind that I had lost. We loved how well she handled Leta, and Leta absolutely adored her. She worked for us for two years and then, well, I’m not going to get into too much detail, but things ended and there were tears and I think someone may have lost a limb and then there was that call from the president of Guyana and I had to go into hiding. The end.

And then about a year ago as my book deadline approached and my schedule starting getting crazier and crazier we realized that the only way anything was ever going to get done was by hiring someone to help out. So in June of 2008 The Blurbodoocery decided to hire its first employee, an assistant, and since I’d made amends with the government of Guyana through several months of arduous negotiations involving lawyers, heavy artillery, and one very cooperative Norwegian pole dancer (don’t ask), I called up Katey and asked if she’d like to quit the job she was working and come work for us. I may have actually pleaded, bribed, cried and/or clung to her leg. She agreed on one condition: that I pay her money. And I was all SOME PEOPLE! Can you believe the nerve?

And she’s been every bit the perfect employee we thought she’d be, managing everything from the schedule of my book tour to keeping our business lives organized to handling press inquiries. And you may be wondering why I haven’t yet mentioned her? Why has it taken this long? And here’s where I remind you about that one time I got fired for talking about work on my website. Remember that? Yeah, well, I’m still pretty tender in that area and think you should be very careful when you write about work on the Internet, whether you’re the employee or the employer, and since this was my first time being on the employer end I was all NO WAY NO HOW. Even now as I write this I feel like Elmer Fudd tiptoeing through the forest, like I’m about to step on a bomb or something, and what if Katey reads this, calls me into her office and says, “We need to have a talk.” And next thing you know I’m being walked to my car with all my belongings in a cardboard box.

All of this was a roundabout way of getting to the part last August when one afternoon she comes running into my office with a freshly-peed on pregnancy test, a spare one I’d had lying around, one whose box and instructions I had long thrown away. And her hand is shaking so badly that I can barely make out what line is going in which direction, and she’s all IS THIS POSITIVE?! And I’m all HOW SHOULD I KNOW, WHERE ARE THE INSTRUCTIONS? And she’s all ARMSTRONG, IF YOU WEREN’T PAYING MY SALARY I’D HIT YOU OVER THE HEAD WITH THIS THING.

So we immediately google pregnancy tests, and I look at her and she looks at me and I’m all I SURE HOPE YOU DON’T GET A SCREAMER.

That was six weeks before I got pregnant, and so here’s where we take a moment of silence to honor Jon and what he had to endure for the following nine months as he basically lived with two pregnant women. Double the complaining and bitching and neurotic pacing over the weight gain. Seriously, how do polygamists do it? I mean, at least Jon could drink. Polygamists not only do it willingly, THEY DO IT SOBER.

Anyway, Katey casually mentioned one day that she was thinking about trying to have a natural childbirth, and I was all, oh honey, that’s what we all say. And then we get hit with that one whammy contraction and realize that God made epidurals for a reason! Because I know so many women, myself included, who think in our first pregnancies that we’ll just “see how things go.” And that if we’ve overestimated our threshold for pain we’ll give in to the possibility of pain relief. Ha! No, let me restate that: HA! There is nothing in life that you can really compare to the pain of labor, NOTHING, so the “idea” of your threshold for pain is as useless as a piece of shit.

And I may have actually said those words to her. You know, because I’m encouraging that way. And then I finished that sentiment with YOU’RE TOTALLY FUCKING INSANE.

Except Katey did what many of us did not do during our first pregnancies: she prepared! She researched! She hired a doula! And not once did she mention any of this to me, not once did she ever try to preach to me or change my mind, and there I was shaking my head in my brain thinking THERE IS NO WAY she has any idea what she’s in for. So you can imagine her surprise when one day about three weeks before she was due she got a text message from me that said, “Hey… um… yeah… so… I think I want to try and have a natural childbirth.”

Her response was to call Jon and tell him that someone had stolen my phone and was texting her with it.

A couple of weeks later I get a frantic phone call from Katey’s mother at 7:30AM saying that she’s been at the hospital since midnight. She’d been having painful contractions all day, decided finally to head to the hospital, and when they took her blood pressure and found it to be dangerously high they put her on pitocin immediately to make sure labor continued. At this point I hear a noise in the background unlike any noise I have ever heard in my life, a combination of a growl, a roar, and a murderous yawping. I ask Katey’s mother if there is a lion in the room with them who is busily eating a rather talkative jackal while simultaneously groaning out a bowel movement.

Oh no, no lion, that’s just Katey in the background who has refused any and all pain medication.

Now, wait a minute.

She’s been at the hospital for how long? Almost eight hours. And how long has she been hooked up to pitocin? All eight of those hours. And how far dilated is she? A three.


A THREE???????

For those of you familiar with labor and delivery you will understand why I capitalized those letters and used seven question marks. For those unfamiliar you should understand that when you’re in labor and you ask the nurse how far dilated you are, there’s only one right answer: TEN. All other answers are wrong because it means you’re not done yet.

Katey had SEVEN MORE CENTIMETERS TO GO. SEVEN. One, two, three…. do you see where I’m going with this? And she’d already been in hard, uncomfortable labor for eight hours, and then a day of awful contractions before that… who knew how long this could go on. It could go on for days. Maybe years. She could be the first person in the history of the world to labor FOREVER. YOU NEVER KNOW.

So I’m thinking, hey, I’ll take my time, eat my breakfast, take Leta to school and obey all traffic laws on my way up to the hospital with the idea that when I get there she’ll have progressed a few more centimeters. Except thirty minutes later the phone rings. And I don’t recognize the number. And when I say hello the person on the other end doesn’t say a word of English for a few sentences and then goes, “NINE!”

And I go, “I’m sorry, but you have the wrong number.”

And Katey’s mom goes, “HEATHER! SHE’S AT A NINE!”

Turns out that when they broke her water she dilated six more centimeters almost instantly, and there I am throwing on clothes, running red lights, parking like I’m blind, and hauling ass from the garage to the desk at labor and delivery. I tell them I’m there for Katey Kendall, and I’m not kidding, all four people behind the desk whip around and go, “Another one?”

Turns out there are more people in Katey’s delivery room than there are in the city of Boise, Idaho. No, really. Like hundreds of them. Every person she ever thought about being related to? They are in that room. And when I open the door there is not a word being said, not a noise being made, it is as quiet as the pause between words in a prayer. I turn my head to see a sweat-drenched Katey lying on the hospital bed surrounded by her sisters, and without even thinking, in the middle of all that silence I go, “YOU ARE A TOTAL FUCKING CHAMP!”

I think this is what my therapist would refer to as me getting dumber.

Just then a contraction hits Katey, and like a well-oiled machine her sisters jump into action. They are all pushing on her body at different strategic points, and as Katey growls and mumbles and digs down into her gut to survive the pain, everyone else is calling out from different corners of the room, “You’re doing it!” or “That’s awesome!” or “Keep it up!” The cheering and pushing and growling continue for what seems like a couple of minutes, what must have seemed like eternity for Katey, and when it’s apparent that the contraction has ended, the room immediately sinks right back into silence. No one talks. Every single person is focused on Katey’s next move.

This goes on for another hour and a half, because even though she is dilated to a nine a lip has formed at the cervix and is refusing to budge. Katey is miserable, her hair is completely soaked with sweat, and you can hear that her vocal chords are shredded from all the groaning. At one point during a contraction she yells, “Please! PLEASE! JUST HELP ME!” And I want to cry, her mother is bawling, and everyone else is cheering, “You can do this! YOU’RE DOING THIS! HANG IN THERE!”

The rest of this story goes like many other birthing stories, because when it was time to push she pushed like a champion, and I happened to be one of the lucky ones in the room to have a view of the baby as she came out, first her head and then her right arm came flying out, like, “Ta da! Here I am!” And then everyone in the room started crying. They named her Lily Blanche.

But what I guess makes this story quite different than any other birth I’ve personally attended or seen is the reverence with which every single person in that room treated the experience. It was like church in there, and for the hour and a half that I witnessed it, I just couldn’t believe it. It almost didn’t seem real. And as much as it was Katey’s experience and everything that she had hoped it would be, it’s what she gave to the rest of us that I won’t ever forget. Because we all had to come together, all four hundred and eighty of us, for her. We all gained something incredible from forming that community around her.

And the courage that she showed, the endurance, the sheer power of getting through contraction after contraction, I was just so inspired, so touched to be so close to something so primal and raw and vulnerable as she was during those hours, so thankful that she let me be a part of it. And I knew I would never be the same person after having witnessed it.

I got home about an hour later, my face a mess of tears and snot, and told Jon, “I can’t wait to give you what that birth just gave me.”


Part three, the final installment, coming soon. Right now I’ve got a cute baby who is giving all her smiles to Jon, and that’s just not at all fair.

  • Your writing is amazing. I can see and feel the experience through your words. Inspiring. Can’t wait to hear how your story goes.

    Congratulations Katey! What a beautiful daughter!

  • CC

    Thankfully, I am DONE with childbirth. And a good thing, too, because I bet I could be talked into trying a natural birth. I thought I would the first time, but as you (much more eloquently) said, once that first labor pain hit, all bets were off. I wonder if I could/should have, but instead of regrets, I will await your next installment and revel in your success.

    I can only imagine the number of Doulas who have linked to your site and now high-five each other over your glowing endorsement of what they’ve been trying to tell us for years.

    Congrats to Katey. How wonderful for your 2 babes to have an instant best friend.

  • Cathy

    I LOVE KATEY! what an awesome addition to your life–thanks for the story. Can’t wait to read the rest of it!

  • Gosh darn it, Heather, you’re going to make me want a natural birth! And I don’t even pretend to have a “threshold of pain.” o_O

    Beautiful photos, beautiful story. I look forward to part 3.

    (Hopefully it involves my CAPTCHA words: “bobbing Michael”)

  • Lily is absolutelly adorable. As always, love the post and really looking forward to the rest of it and maybe more stories about Katey in the future. She sounds really awesome.

  • OK, I was not prepared for this, and when you started with depression, and I scrolled down to see Katey’s face, and then a baby I didn’t know, I was terrified that you were giving us a “look at this tragic story of a mother whose depression went down the shoot,” but it was just not that. And thank effing god for that, woman.

    Although, I guess, you’re not THAT much of an asshole. Despite what your inbox sometimes says (and your therapist, I guess).

  • Caiti

    What a beautiful story. The more I hear about natural childbirth, the more I want to learn about it. Congratulations to Katey on beautiful Lily.

  • Ashly


    When I was pregnant with my first baby 13 years ago, I was talking with a woman at a party and mentioned my intention to go natural. She told me that I wouldn’t make it, adding, “No one does! It’s impossible.” Luckily, I didn’t believe her and after 26 hours and lots of growling of my own, I had a beautiful baby girl naturally and felt the overwhelming sense of power and accomplishment of that amazing experience.

    Thanks so much for telling your story and Katey’s! It is wonderful that the 26th most influential woman in media is advocating for unmedicated birth.

    Cheers! Ashly

  • Tobamom

    When I saw today’s photo of you holding Marlo, I was blown away. You look gorgeous — serene and truly happy. God bless you and your family.

  • –>What a great story and I think one of my favorite posts of yours to date. Her baby is beautiful too.

  • Liz

    Is it wrong that I wanted an epidural just to read that?

  • Anonymous

    Enough, already about natural childbirth. Having been through this three times, it is not “the greatest thing I could ever do”. I had babies. That is the bottom line. How they arrived is of no real importance to their lives, nor has it affected them. I never even thought to mention it to them. Ye gods, this topic is totally worn out. Women squat in fields in other countries. They would read this stuff and laugh their asses off. What is the big frigging deal?


  • Yolanda

    Dang ladies!! You rocked it!

  • Beautiful writing. It brought tears to my eyes and really did justice to the level of achievement you feel after giving birth naturally, and having done it with a support system there to encourage you.

    Looking forward to part three!

  • Amazing! I’m on tenterhooks for part 3 . . .

  • Your are so right, especially since you birthed her up. I did have natural childbirth 35 and 39 years ago when everyone I worked with (in a NICU) told me I was crazy. I was not going to be knocked out when MY baby arrived. It was the two best days of my life, and I loved your telling of Lily’s Birth….it was so remarkable, I cannot wait for the rest of Marlo’s Birth Story.

  • Your are so right, especially since you birthed her up. I did have natural childbirth 35 and 39 years ago when everyone I worked with (in a NICU) told me I was crazy. I was not going to be knocked out when MY baby arrived. It was the two best days of my life, and I loved your telling of Lily’s Birth….it was so remarkable, I cannot wait for the rest of Marlo’s Birth Story.

  • i can only think these words, “Holy.” and “Shit.” The end. p.s. also, “Awesome!”

  • Hooray for Katey! Lily is gorgeous! 🙂

    Can’t wait to read the rest.

  • Jess

    Katey is my HERO!

  • This was so beautifully written. I am waiting for part three with bated breath.

  • I love Katey. She seems awesome.

    I know you’re picky and overprotective of your kids and all, and I can understand why you passed over that woman with the pregnant kid and the son in jail, but I hope that you don’t judge everyone based on the downfalls of their family. They are not their family. They don’t have control over what their family does. At least she was honest with you about them. I’m hoping that maybe there were other things you passed her over for besides that.

    I would hate to think that someone wouldn’t hire me because of someone I am related to not meeting their standards. My husband hasn’t ever been in jail, but we’re separated, and he helps me out by giving me rides to places a lot, and I am constantly disrespected because of how HE looks. Back when I was healthy, I was turned down for a caregiver job I would have been perfect for because they saw him drop me off in his rocker skull t-shirt and septum piercing and long goatee and bald head. That wasn’t fair and it really hurt. So you can see why I felt compelled to leave this comment.

  • Aww, WAY TO GO KATEY!!
    what a great set of family/friends she seems to have, too. My family won’t even be in the same county when I give birth (they live here, I’m just sending them away)

    Lily is beautiful! 😀

    I do like to hear these stories of women who stick by their birth choices! Obviously sometimes things happen and i’m not saying anything against doing what you NEED to do.. but those are the stories I hear the most. It’s nice to hear this side as well, thank you!

    -scared pregnant lady who prefers natural, but will get back to you after peanut is born about that whole pain killer thing (:p)

  • Oh what a wonderful, beautiful, perfect story. Go Katey, go, and congrats on your stunning little baby girl.

  • My birthing experiences have been eerily similar to yours…

    As much as I was blown away by the first child I gave birth to, the labor itself was so not what I expected.
    After engrossing myself on the aspect of natural childbirth with number two, it was the most powerful experience ever. One that I like to tell to people just to give them the other side of childbirth that doesn’t involve intervention. (thank god)
    And the awake baby for hours after she was born was utterly precious.

  • Helen

    Varied emotions here—-tears, joy, empathy. Katey is stunningly beautiful and Lily Blanche is adorable. I must say that I know that evil demon, Pitocin, too well, as it was given to me during 2 births out of my 4. Never would I wish that on anyone. If I could go back I would attempt natural childbirth with all 4 of mine. Made it with one and it was the best birth of all. Congrats to Katey for birthing Lily and sharing that sacred experience with her loved ones. You yourself know, Heather, that none of them will ever be the same again. And Marlo gets cuter everyday. Wow, do I see your Dad in her? Love your new haircut and love you too, Dooce!

  • Denise

    Fortunately, it’s 23 years behind me, but I gave birth to my first son in 1986, after 60 (count ’em) hours of labor with no drugs. Oh- and he was a posterior presentation, so I had back labor. I’m thankful that it was the 80s, the heyday of natural childbirth, because he had the cord wrapped tightly around his neck and probably wouldn’t have made it if I had been drugged.

    The only bottom line is that you did the very best for your baby. In the end, that’s all that matters. The birth story fades (well, ok, there is a need to trot it out now and then for the next 23 years). But again: healthy baby.

  • sparkyd

    Loving the story and totally love the “daily photo” of you and Marlo. Beautiful.

  • That’s quite a leap to go from never mentioning katey, to sharing her birthing story with all the moaning and the visual writing.

    But still it was a beautiful story! On your suggestion I watched The Business of Being Born. It was amazing, and now my 2 year old daughter constantly asks to watch the baby movie again. I’m inspired to try a natural child birth, and I feel a little sad that I missed out the first time around.

  • Chills.

  • Great story–moving and funny. As an adoptive parent and an infertile…I have never experienced child birth. Reading your story has made me feel as though I have and it makes me a little happy that I haven’t 🙂

    Can’t wait for part III.

  • You’ve convinced me to try for a natural childbirth after I picked up Your Best Birth from the library on your recommendation. And then I got the documentary. And then I called a doula… and now I’ve told everyone who will listen how awesome natural childbirth is, and I’m gonna feel like a dang fool in 5 weeks if I can’t cut it! I can’t wait to hear the end of your story. Thank you so much, again, for sharing.

  • Alisa

    Is Chimmy the Peruvian the dad?

  • Kristi Flower

    Thank you Heather….Katey you’re amazing.

  • I’ve been waiting for this second part. Now, I’m excited for part three. Love, love, love hearing about how your perception of natural childbirth changed. Thanks for sharing.

  • Dooce – I don’t know if I have ever in my 7 years of reading have posted a comment but I just loved this post so much. I am at work, I’m only 24, I have no children, only dogs, and I am bawling. Wonderfully written. And Katey and baby Lily are just beautiful!

  • mloeks

    The same thing happened to me with my daughter. They gave me pitocin and I was in labor for hours. They finally broke my water 9 or so hours laster and i had my daughter within probably an hour and a half. Thank god they broke my water!
    And, I did a natural childbirth. Pain meds weren’t an option for me, for some reason, they told me right as i arrive at the hospital because of my epilepsy. No one ever told me that before – I think because they thought I’d say, “no way, I’m not doing this now.” but it was all good, I’m glad I had natural childbirth. They say women have children when they forget the pain so we are probably about ready. 🙂

  • Whoa- exactly how many days was Katey in labor now? And no pain meds at all? Badass for sure.

  • My god, woman! The suspense! You’re doing this on purpose, aren’t you?! HOLY MOLY, YOU KNOW HOW TO TELL A STORY!!!

    Katey sounds abso-friggin-lutely FABULOUS beyond FABULOUS. She trucked through like a champ, thank you SO MUCH for sharing her story! She’s gorgeous, and her little Lily Blanche is positively DARLING!

    But, You’re keeping me ON. The. Edge. Of. MY SEAT FOR PART III, WOMAN! YOUR AUDIENCE NEEDS IT, NOW! ENCORE!!! 🙂

    Much love to you, precious little Marlo, adorable little Leta Elise, stunning Lily Blanch, Jon, and everything that you do. 🙂


  • “The cheering and pushing and growling continue for what seems like a couple of minutes, what must have seemed like eternity for Katey, and when it’s apparent that the contraction has ended, the room immediately sinks right back into silence. No one talks. Every single person is focused on Katey’s next move.”

    And that is when I got completely choked up. I can’t believe that everyone was so respectful of what she was experiencing. Can you imagine if through all of our hard times we had people around us who were silent in honor of our struggle and then jumped into action to help when they could?

    It reminds me of a true story I read about a Native American Vietnam Vet who came back from the war totally traumatized. When the people in his home town, on the reservation, saw how he was they called their medicine man. He have everyone rattles and drums and they danced and sang and rattled around him for days until he was better. The whole village.

  • Helen Tarnation

    I laughed…I cried….VERY well written! And a beautiful mother and daughter to boot!

  • Mimi

    Oh my GAWD, I can’t believe I now must wait for part 3! After jonesin’ for #2 for days! But yay Katey — congrats to her!

    Also, my “captcha” words are “birth lawanda”, which sound like an appropriate cheer.


  • Mary Jane

    Wow, thanks for sharing that experience. I can’t have babies…always wondered what it was like to give birth (can’t say that I REALLY missed out), but I liked the way you described it….the church thing…that was nice.

  • Janet

    Her birth story made me cry, it was just so beautiful. I have 2 children and had 2 unmedicated child births and they are the the proudest, strongest most amazing moments of my entire life. I wish every woman could if only for once in her life have an experience as spiritual and beautiful as an unmedicated birth. It almost makes me want to get pregnant again. Almost.

  • Totally hilarious and touching AND informative. How do you do it?

    Can’t wait for Part 3!!!

  • cristal

    LOVE this! thanks for sharing yours & katey’s stories with us!

    i think my biological clock has found a loudspeaker.

  • Thank you so much for the much needed laugh. I’ve spent the day alternating between reading another mom’s blog as she may or may not be losing her son and holding my son tight while he practices climbing on me like I’m a jungle gym, except he has no balance, rhythm, or anything helpful other than desire and thigh muscles. I needed the break and the laugh. I look forward to part 3.

  • Janice

    I love it…your writing, the birth story, all so wonderful!

  • Ron

    Well, ya see….

    …this is why I love reading you.

  • Tears. Full on, bawling tears. Big ol’ ugly ones, too.

    Four children in my own personal repertoire and that was probably the single most beautiful remembrance of a birth I’ve ever seen.

    Kudos, Heather. And yay, Katie! It’s good to know you’ve had help all this time. She looks like a rockstar, which of course means she must fit right into the family.

    Can’t wait to read part three. Don’t make us wait long.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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