Dakota, Xander, and Zannara: Amy’s Three Alma Babies

Today’s post is very special! Amy has had three Alma babies and has generously offered to share her stories and photos with us.

 

My name is Amy Scott-Olson and I have had all three of my babies with Alma. The first two were birth center births and the third was a home birth. I remember when I first met Laura Erickson, owner and founder of Alma. Everything she said in that first meeting I agreed with wholeheartedly. I knew from the start her wisdom, intuition, and presence would be such an asset to my birthing process. I wanted to find women I could trust and rely upon. Every team I have had at Alma has given me and my family fantastic loving care.  What I have received with every birth at Alma I would call “Whole Care”. Laura would check in with me emotionally, physically, and spiritually for balanced well-being. She would also check in with my husband, Ryder, and my other children to see how they were feeling.  From a gentle back massage to packets of take home nausea tea, her natural healing advice and compassion flows freely through Alma birthing center.

 

DAKOTA’S STORY-2008

Dakota Stiles came as a surprise 10 days early on a cold February night. We were in the middle of a massive remodel and my husband had just finished working for the day. We were cuddled together nose to nose and belly to belly when we heard and felt a loud “POP!” I jumped up and ran to the bathroom to observe grey water pouring out of me. We looked at each other with excitement. This must be it! My contractions began immediately right then at 5:30 pm lasting about 40 seconds, 5 minutes apart. By the time he had showered and shaved the intensity began to increase. I realized my bag was not packed and with the car seat still new in the box, we quickly worked together to pack the bag and get out the door. We called Laura around 7:30 pm and by then my contractions were lasting over a minute, 3 minutes apart. We arrived at Alma around 8 pm and I had three contractions from curbside to the Lilly room. Laura checked me and I was dilated to an 8, so it was time to get the tub filled. I labored in the water for about an hour and a half. My apprentice midwife gave me electrolytes through a straw and would pour warm water down my back. I had the nurse midwife checking the baby every 20 minutes and pushing on my sacrum through contractions. Ryder was on the third side of the tub, holding my hand and locking eyes through the waves of intensity. It was time to get out of the water and try to empty my bladder. Little did I know, rising out of the water and into gravity allowed the baby to traction right in to the birth canal.  I was focusing so hard on trying to pee I didn’t realize the baby had crowned. That was not the water birth we planned; on the toilet.  With a midwife on each side, holding baby’s crown I was able to make it back to my birth waters. On the next contraction Dakota’s little head came out, then his shoulders, and finally his little body. The nurse midwife caught him like a football and brought him through my legs up to my chest. We didn’t know if he was a boy or girl and for the first 30 seconds, it was just a baby. At 10:20pm we had a perfect beautiful little baby boy. We stayed connected for a good 20 minutes and carefully transferred to the bed. I loved the water birth because we arose from the waters clean, refreshed, and attached.  I had excellent care through the night. The woman who was there would check on us every 20-30 minutes; hold the baby so I could use the restroom, bring in cold sliced fruit and warm medicinal tea. In the morning we had breakfast in bed from Zells. Later that afternoon I felt very stable and we were able to head home.

 

XANDER’S STORY- 2011

After such a great experience, I knew I would have my second baby at Alma. The yoga space had been beautifully converted to the Fern room, becoming my first choice.  Xander was a special baby because he was first presenting breech. Laura is trained in Mayan abdominal massage and at 34 weeks, she was able to turn him in my belly. It was a wild feeling but not painful at all. He stayed in the head down position and I was able to birth him naturally. Xander Thomas was a few days late. I felt his labor come on slowly around 3 am. I wandered the house timing contractions until they were about a minute, 3-4 minutes apart. I woke up Ryder around 5:30 am and we met Laura at Alma around 6:30 am. We filled the tub, but I was only dilated to a 6. We worked through the contractions together as light began to fill the room. Ryder was in the tub with me, coffee in hand, while the midwives cooked him a plate full of breakfast. The intensity picked up a little after 10 am and at 11 am, my waters broke in the water. I had to work a little harder, a whole hour more for Xander. The midwives could tell he was stuck and had me get up out of the water in between contractions and do big wide hip circles and envision him “swirling down the drain”. The next contraction he was in the right spot. Once he crowned, it went the same as Dakota. One contraction for the head, a second for the shoulders, and out! This time daddy caught him. At 12:06 pm, we had welcomed our second son. We received excellent care all day. With no rips or tears we left Alma for home that very evening around 8 pm.

 

 

ZANNARA’S STORY-2016

When it was time to try for our girl, our insurance had changed and Alma was out of network. I thought I could put on my big girl pants and have a baby at OHSU. I had a visit with Laura and I had a visit with the assigned midwife up on the hill. I quickly realized that I knew better and the only way I know how to birth is naturally with Alma. After two very successful and quick births at the birthing center, we decided to have our third baby at home. Good thing, because Zannara Avalene, our warrior princess came to us in just 3 short hours. She was five days late and I had been having false labor every night for over a week. I struggled with to call or not to call.  Joni assured me the baby would come and to look for intensity and call when I had “turned the corner”.  As it turns out the baby was waiting for the full moon  on the 13th of December. I woke up at 4:30 am, refreshed and excited. I lit my candles right away and started filling my bath. I counted contractions and by 6:30 am they were lasting about 45 seconds, 3-4 minutes apart. I called Laura, put on my music, and sunk into the waters in my master bath. Around 7:30 am Laura, my team, and my family were all there ready to help. My boys held my hands and we put our foreheads together during early active labor. We allowed my oldest to stay home from school. He wanted very badly to be there and help.  Laura assured me this was a family affair and it was important to have his love and participation. Dakota was running around the house collecting my power phrases and sticking them up on the bath walls around me. My husband was cooking water in our crab pots outside on giant propane burners, the women took turns pushing my sacrum through the heightened pain. Around 8 am, Ryder got into the tub with me. We wrapped our legs together facing each other and got to work allowing my body to use the powerful contraction to open. At 9 am, Laura checked me and I was dilated to an 8 with bulging waters. Knowing I only had 20% to go I embraced every contraction until I first felt the need to push. That was when my waters exploded. The very next contraction my daughter entered the birth canal. That’s when it got primal. I was side-ly, my husband holding my top leg up. I felt her descending with every contraction. I worked with my breath, did not force any movement in between contractions. In fact I could feel some sort of euphoric release of serotonin in between contractions. Then on the next contraction her little head was out, following with her shoulders, and then the sweet release of her body from my body in to the warm waters. She is beautiful, we are home, it’s a family affair, and it is 9:37 am.   We stayed in the water for about 10 minutes and moved to the bed still attached. My oldest, Dakota, cut his sister’s cord once it was done pulsing. My placenta was not releasing so Laura took me through a guided visualization and gave me a tincture under the tongue. Within 5 minutes the placenta released and came out beautiful and whole. We all had salmon and spinach omelets to celebrate! It felt so amazing to be home. Everyone was able to have a job, a way to be a part of the birth of Zannara.

 

I really enjoyed having my first two babies at Alma birthing center. The birth center was clean, safe, and very grounding. By the time our third baby came along, our remodel was complete. Our friends and family helped me clean and prepare our home for birth. I know that third babies can come very quickly and it just made sense to be home. Birth is hard work and it hurts, but we can do it. That’s the bottom line. I discovered once I became grounded and welcomed the waves of labor to open and expand my body, the baby descended and transitioned from the warm waters right into my loving arms. The water babies are so calm and comfortable.  I know to trust my instincts to be present in labor. I was able to cope with the intensity of pain in any way that I needed to because my birth team supported me.  The Alma experience has been so special for our family because it is genuinely empowering and intimately compassionate. Alma is whole family care.

 

Maverick’s Birth

The night before my labor begins, Alex and I find ourselves accompanying some out-of-town guests to the most picturesque of home environments: Ikea. We wander through perfectly staged nurseries. I test out sofas and chow on swedish meatballs. My belly feels very, very tight.

The following evening, my water leaks as I crawl into bed. Alex and I examine it with curiosity, excitement and some hesitation (what if it’s actually only pee?!). In the morning, I roll out of bed and shoot off some final work emails. My new job for the next few days is to labor, and for the next few months, to be only a mother.

A few hours later, I’m watching the Monday night Seahawks game between increasingly intense contractions. I raise my head off the kitchen counter to witness an epic, athletic catch by Jimmy Graham, but then things get a little hazy. (Did they win? I don’t remember.) I rock and sway with the hypnobirthing soundtrack playing in the background: Picture yourself now on a bed of mist….

At 2:00 am, midwives Nikki and Anne pay us a visit. Our dog is very excited to have visitors so early. He wonders if perhaps they’d like to feed him breakfast? It’s time, the midwives say. Meet us at the Alma Birth Center in an hour.

We drive. Car rides while in labor don’t top my bucket list, but arriving at our bedroom at Alma makes it all worthwhile. It’s so cozy. I ease into the warm tub surrounded by glowing candles and rest. I’m in good hands.

Two hours later, I’m wrinkled as a raisin but relaxed. I’m thinking to myself, The pain isn’t so bad…what’s all the fuss about? The midwives tell me my contractions are spacing out too much and I need to get out of the tub.

Oh. That’s why it doesn’t feel so bad.

Keeping the contractions going becomes a constant challenge. Apparently my baby is also sunnyside up. That won’t do. We need him properly positioned. Midwife Laura has me rotating like a rotisserie chicken on the bed: I push on my side, then from my back, then on all fours, then on my other side. It works–our baby spins.

This pushing thing is taking a long time. I push on the toilet, inside the shower, on the birthing stool, from the bed, from the couch, hanging from my husband’s neck. They’re giving me shots of cotton root extract, with chasers of gatorade, so my laboring uterus will buck up and stop taking breaks. Eventually I get an IV.

I wryly recall my key takeaway, accurate or not, from our hypnobirthing class: “You don’t need to push in addition to your body’s natural reflex.” Hah. Hah, hah, hah. I’m pushing my eyes out right now. Alex is lovingly yelling Push, push! in my ear. I’m pushing even when there are no contractions.

 

I wonder if this process will ever end. Two steps forward, one step back, Laura comments. Then, finally, some real progress! The midwives can see hair and encourage me to look. I don’t want to look. I want this baby out.

 

Apparently, he’s entering the world in style, with one arm draped dramatically across his forehead. Comforting for him in the womb, but not super comfortable for my perineum. It burns. There’s so much pressure. PUUUSH PUSH PUUUUSH Alex chants, and then…he’s out. Maverick is here. This little thing is on my chest and I can hardly believe it.

He’s covered in meconium and hasn’t cried yet. The midwives kick into gear. They track the time, rub him down, prepare to help him get a breath, and then…he cries. We are so thankful.

Puffy face from pushing? Check.

Starving? Check.

Awe-inspiring new life? Check.

Hardest physical feat I’ve ever accomplished? Absolutely. Marathons, relays, my Ultimate Frisbee championships–even Jimmy Graham’s one-handed catch–got nothing on this birthing thing.

We squirrel away for two glorious nights at the birth center. We don’t leave our room. I devour two milkshakes in one night and linger in the shower. Maverick naps on Alex’s chest. They coach us on a few newborn tricks, family pops by for a visit, and we rest…we rest before leaving to start the rest of our completely new lives, all together.

Baby Sage’s Birth Story

Alma mama Christina Sommerville has generously shared her birth story with us! 

 

On Wednesday, August 5th I started to feel a little something during an afternoon walk.

Because I had never done this before, I just wasn’t sure. Whatever feeling it was, it stayed weak and inconsistent. That night we went to dinner to celebrate what likely would be our last dinner out as a childless couple. We decided to just go to sleep that night and see how I felt the next morning.

On Thursday morning, August 6th, the pains I felt the night before had subsided. I just decided to proceed with my regular daily routine. I didn’t want to overthink it. That evening my husband and I went for a walk and the contractions started up again. The spacing was more consistent but not intense. We both knew the process was probably starting to happen. That evening I decided to try to get some sleep knowing if the contractions got stronger I would wake up.

Getting rest when you can in advance of labor was the best advice my midwives gave me.

By Friday morning, we knew we were getting closer but had no idea what that meant. It could be within hours or within days. We made a point not to think too much about it. Instead, we just relaxed and went about our day spending time together. Again, in mid­-morning we took a long mile and a half walk. Along the way, I could feel the contractions start again and quickly get stronger. It was difficult to keep walking so we turned back. We realized then that this was likely the beginning of the real thing.

By two o’clock our doula came over. She saw that my labor was progressing.

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We also called our Alma midwives who came to see me. Within an hour of being at the house, they all concluded that the labor was progressing consistently. The pains were getting stronger and longer. We all decided it was time to go the the birth center.

The drive over to the birth center was surreal knowing what was about to happen. On the drive over I said to my husband, “We’re actually doing this!” We got to the birth center around 4pm.

Immediately I got in the tub and labored there for the next four and half hours.

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As the sun was setting, the midwives lit candles around the tub. The setting was beautiful and very peaceful.

While I was in my own world towards the end, I knew there was a special feeling in the room.

The discomfort of labor was intense but predictable. That is how I managed through. Knowing it was a temporary pain (in the moment and in the long run) and there were breaks in between. By the time I was ready to push, the midwives came in to join me, my husband, and my doula. The sensation to push was intense. All throughout the labor but at especially this point, I just decided to surrender to the process and let my body do what it naturally knew how to do. The midwives encouraged me to just go with what my body was telling me. At some point (you really do lose track of time), everyone was cheering, “Keep going, you’re almost there! We can see the head!”.

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There was a great energy of celebration in the room. At 8:40pm, our daughter Sage Ellis was born!

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She came out with the cord wrapped around her neck twice. But it was untangled immediately and all was fine. She appeared purplish at first but then pinked up quickly following her first cry.

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Immediately they handed her to me and I laid her on my chest. The feeling of pride and joy were overwhelming. There are not too many experiences in life that allow you to feel this way so deeply. I could never have imagined having this kind of experience which was so emotional and spiritual in a hospital setting. I was so grateful for my Alma team for helping us have this truly memorable birth experience.

Preparing For Birth With Yoga

Today’s post is a guest post by lovely Laura Cooper, Alma yoga instructor and Alma mama too!

 

First some words from my clientele:

 

“Laura,

Every move I made yesterday during the 7 hour home birth that was 3 weeks early – I learned from you.

Thank you.

It’s a beautiful girl with a full head of hair. No name yet. I’ll see you soon!”

 

“Laura, I finally had my baby! She was born April 5th, after an half an hour of pushing in the birthing position. Thank you for all the practice. Your prenatal yoga classes were the highlight of my week.”

 

I came to the practice of Prenatal Yoga during my first pregnancy in the fall of 2009 when, after deciding to birth with Alma Midwifery, I asked if they were looking for another Prenatal Yoga instructor. Laura Ericson welcomed me into the livingroom of the Birth Center on Ankney and 16th. It was a small but beautiful space to be pregnant and practice yoga and the class would sometimes be filled with the noises of a laboring mama in the next room or upstairs. Being close to pregnant women, birthing women, midwives, doulas, new mothers and opening ourselves up to life itself, I knew that I had found more than a Midwifery center, I found a space for that empowered and respected the feminine spirit during this crucial time of growth. I focused on studying and gaining proficiency in the most important Hatha/Iyengar poses that best support the back and hips while the pregnant belly is growing, as well as appropriate strengthening poses, hip-openers, awareness of posture, breath work, and don’t forget the all important squats. I focused on creating a Prenatal Yoga class that is challenging and effective with the ultimate goal of increased physical comfort and confidence in the bodies ability to carry, birth and nurture a baby.

 

Alma has since grown and now includes the Alma Midwifery Education and Movement Space, located at 1233 SE Stark, just a few block from the Birth Center. After I took some time off, traveled the country and had another baby, I came back to Portland in 2011 and contacted Alma to see if I could come back to teach Prenatal Yoga. I was once again welcomed and now had the experience of two very different births and recoveries to help guide my yoga regimen. I was thrilled about having a bigger studio and amazing props, but I was even more thrilled to have such a huge network of birthing professional sharing such a beautiful space. The opportunity for education and community is a vision that I believe most birthing professional share, and the Alma Space is one the closest realizations of that vision.

 

My understanding of Prenatal Yoga has grown too. I am able to adjust the routine to the level of the practitioners and their specific needs. I have come to realize that there are yoga poses you can do when you are pregnant and there are yoga poses you should do when you are pregnant. My class focuses on what healthy and capable pregnant women can do to not only maintain physical fitness during pregnancy, it also gives women the opportunity to become stronger. I strive to create the most open group possible where pregnant women from a variety of philosophical and physical backgrounds can come together to talk, share and support each other in this very important time while gaining the benefits of a thorough yoga practice.
I’m so fortunate to have many students come back for Active Postpartum Yoga and Baby & Me Yoga and I especially love it when second and third time mamas come back to Active Prenatal Yoga for their new pregnancies. I strive to make the birthing years for my clientele a time to connect deeply with their bodies and their babies in a very real way through the healing arts of yoga and meditation. Namaste. And thanks to all who have shared their time and feedback.

The Class of 2034 Gestates in 2016

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Will you be having a baby in 2016?  As the belly grows, so does the freely dispensed advice from every “expert” she meets: like the random women in the produce aisle or the well-meaning man on the bus. The best advice may be to read a lot and google not. Here’s a short list of other advice, for pregnant families to consider:

Be Gentle With Yourself! Women aren’t given the magic wand of perfect self-care the day they get the positive pregnancy test.  Do your best and be compassionate when you indulge in an occasional sweet treat. Having empathy towards self prevents the pregnant woman from piling shame on top of the supposed unhealthy action. What animates you? The best prescription is to do healthy activities that give you your greatest joy.

Allow Genuine Emotional Expression Be open with the range of feelings you are experiencing. No emotion is wrong. The little one in the belly will do fine if Mom is having a sad day with a lot of tears. He or she can also feel your joy and lives inside the place where belly laughs originate. Laugh often! Join a mother support group, like the Seasonal Mama’s Groups at Alma Education and Movement Space, across from Revolution Hall. Remember that Postpartum Mood Disorder (PPMD) can occur in pregnancy, if occasional blues become anxiety or depression, tell your practitioner and get a referral to a mental health care provider.

Meditate Evidence is growing about the health benefits of meditation. An added effect to those who meditate in pregnancy is the potential to cope better with the contractions of labor and the ups & downs of parenting. The idea isn’t to calmly sit smiling like Buddha in labor.  But like life, where difficulty comes in surges (contractions) with periods of calm (phase between contractions), meditation prepares women to fully rest in the calm and to greet the contractions without labeling them as painful, bad or too much. Physically, meditation increases circulation to the baby and can reduce complications like hypertension.

Move Dance, hike, walk, swim or join a pregnancy yoga class. Most exercise is safe in pregnancy and reduces risk of gestational diabetes, increases the immune system, promotes a positive mood, minimizes hypertension and when Mom takes a deep breath of fresh air, so does baby.

Nourish Health happens in the kitchen! Keep it simple: Eat all the colors of the produce rainbow, add a protein source, toss in a healthy fat, choose whole grains wisely and you have the foundation for each meal. Graze on healthy snacks throughout the day. Avoid letting yourself get too hungry. The word “hangry” describes most pregnant women who wait too long between meals. Did you know that by keeping blood sugar levels in the normal range women can reduce diabetes for herself and the child she is carrying?  Find a midwife or OBGyn who asks specific diet questions, offers food journaling, recommends evidenced based supplementation and understands food is medicine. Science is beginning to understand the importance of the bacteria that we all house. It is our biome. A balanced gut means inflammation lowers, blood sugar spikes are reduced, infections (especially yeast & BV) become infrequent, preterm labor is decreased and overall health is improved. Probiotics are safe for most individuals. Good bacteria are found in yogurt and other cultured foods. Each healthy bite is nourishing a whole new person whom, potentially could still be walking on this planet in eighty to one hundred years! No pressure though, just have fun with all the glorious food Portland offers. The WIC program helps low income women nourish themselves and can even be used at the Farmer’s Markets. Fetuses are mostly water and they are floating in water and the maternal blood volume nearly doubles…so drink a lot of water each day.

Be well and be kind to yourself as you gestate the class of 2034!

 

Laura Erickson has been attending births as a midwife since 1984; is the mother of four grown-up people, and is the owner-director of Alma Midwifery Birth Center and the Alma Education and Movement Space.