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.


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.


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!”.


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


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:



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


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.