Giving birth is life-changing! The story of how we come into the world is as much a part of us as anything else. Most people enter midwifery care hoping for a natural birth, at home or the birth center. Most of the time things go as planned, but sometimes they don’t! These stories represent the breadth of our clients’ experiences: from calm, fast “easy” home births to five day labors that transfer to the hospital for a much-needed epidural to premature babies to necessary cesarean sections.
This is our tale of love, learning, and life that brought our son into the world.
We chose to welcome our baby at home. My labor started around 10PM Friday night with a cranky-making back ache. I just took myself to bed. By midnight, the contractions were close enough together to call Melissa. She suggested getting rest and calling if anything changed. Around 2AM I fell asleep and woke up Saturday morning, contraction-free. Drat. I had so wanted to be in labor for real. By noon, however, they were back. We called Melissa back and she suggested walking. Off we marched to the grocery store. It turns out that having contractions in a grocery store is less pleasant than it sounds, so we took our few groceries and headed home. Melissa came to check on me and found my cervix, after rather a hunt behind Baby’s head, 3cm dilated. Excellent! She went ahead and stripped the membranes (not as pleasant as it sounds) to pep things up a bit.
We had our friends over for dinner as planned, but I was getting pretty uncomfortable and didn’t protest at all when they made an early exit. Shortly after they left, I hit the bathroom and passed my mucous plug. For weeks I had been eagerly awaiting my mucous plug, but for whatever reason, the sight of it unhinged me. I called Melissa about an hour before dark, having holed up in the dark den with a heat pack. She was very excited and supportive, as usual, and asked me to tell her when we needed more support from our midwifery team. I was scared and not being especially pleasant to my loving husband, so Robert and I decided that we were ready for support. Melanya came to hang for the night. Her calm presence was very reassuring to me and I was glad that Robert was able to get some rest, off and on, knowing that I was being taken care of if he was asleep.
Sleep is a pretty relative description as Adrienne was having a fitful eventing that pretty much went on all night making it tough for any of us to really get much rest. It was an entire night of wrenching guts, occasional sips of an athletic electrolyte drink and multiple contractions. Melanya whose 7 dwarves name is now “Doc” spend the entire night tag teaming with me to see to it that Adrienne always had a calm hand and soothing voice to help her through the contractions and vomiting. We carted multiple containers of liquid to get dumped into the toilet, it was getting pretty obvious after the she upchucked my really good Italian dinner that her body was going to go into the birth mode running on empty which does happen with some women.
About 10:00 that night, my 16 year old step-son, Noah, returned from his year abroad in France. We had been saying that the baby would wait for big brother and it seemed to be true. I felt bad that I wasn’t in better shape to greet Noah, but I grunted a greeting from the couch and returned to labor land. Noah and Robert headed downstairs to catch up for a while and Melanya stayed with me. She listened to baby every 30 minutes, took vitals, timed contractions, held the barf bowl, etc. The birth hormones were alternately making me puke and shake. I was able to remain lying down through the contractions though and get some small rest in between. Robert came and laid with me on the futon. I could cuddle with him between contractions, which felt very nice. Despite that, I was darned glad to see the sun come up and I knew I didn’t want to go through another night of labor.
I was still fighting labor, as opposed to embracing it. I’d read Spiritual Midwifery from cover to cover and knew that more than half the battle was attitude. Nonetheless, my attitude stunk.
Melanya headed for the back room to get some much earned sleep when Steph arrived to take over Sunday morning. Steph’s seven dwarves name is henceforth “Sleepy” since her suggestion that the best thing that could happen now in the pregnancy would be for Adrienne to get some sleep to have her better rested for things to come. No one was quite certain when that would be happening. I had a sense that the baby would be born Sunday evening before dark, but that opinion was not widely shared due to where Adrienne was in the dilation department, but it was still my gut instinct that this was the time schedule, reality and body signs be damned! Robert was able to get some sleep as well. Steph helped me get more comfortable during contractions and found a great way to rub my back. It felt good to have other touch on my skin. I was quite low on calories, feeling dry mouthed, and dejected. I told Steph I didn’t want to do this anymore. She said that no matter what happened, I had to do this. Even if we went to the hospital for drugs (something I’d thought about, but hadn’t voiced), I would still have to do it. I ruminated on that for a while. She also told me to keep my energy focused downward and to stop puking. It pretty much worked. Even so, when Steph checked my cervix again, I was horrified to hear that in more than 12 hours, I’d only gone from 3cm to 4cm dilated. She suggested we get some herbs to slow me down so I could get some rest. A hot shower and a nap in my bed (as opposed to the futon in the living room) felt quite good, even though I woke up a bit for each contraction.
When I got up I asked Steph the plan. She said Melissa was on her way and we were going walking. I highly doubted that they could get me to do any such thing, and went back to contracting and resting on the futon next to Robert, who was getting quite good at the mid contraction back rub. Noah poked his head in occasionally, but I could tell he felt uncomfortable. I felt uncomfortable as well and tried to stay covered up when he was around. I didn’t feel uncomfortable being unclothed in general, but I was concerned about Noah’s reaction.
I know Noah well enough to be sure that he would rise to the task when things got to serious birthing time. I had requested of him on his arrival the evening before that he be here at the house and not head off to his Mom’s house, that we needed him as moral support and that the magic of welcoming his new sibling into the world would be an experience that he would never forget and would treasure always. Plus I knew that because of the age difference between the soon to be connected new siblings that this would be a way to cement their relationship forever. Plus how many sixteen year olds get to see something so magical happen right in their own home. I figured that the issues of nudity, babies popping out of vaginas, etc. would pale in comparison to the incredible privilege that attending a birth provides.
Melissa arrived and, to my shock, did not order me off the bed at once. We talked and she applied counter pressure during contractions, all the while sending Robert to the bedroom for walking attire (Ha! The preggy pants with the loose elastic that wouldn’t stay up and drove me crazy for four months were the perfect thing for labor!). Dressed and ready, Robert, Noah, Melissa, the two little dogs, and I headed for Buckman School. Looking back, the walk was the event that showed Noah and me that being uncomfortable with each other wasn’t important. I was a very slow walker and we paused once or twice a block for contractions, in which I would hang my arms around Robert or Noah while Melissa applied back pressure. It was nice to be out, remembering that there was a world outside of labor. Once we got to the school, I could do contractions on all fours on the grass.
I have to laugh when I think what the neighbors around Buckman think when they see so many mommas on the birth walk with their midwives and other supporters in tow. Here is Adrienne on all fours on the soccer field having contractions right out in the daylight like this is a normal thing to do. We stop every 30 or so paces for Adrienne to have a contraction usually with her hanging on one of our shoulders or a tree if one is close by with a limb low enough to grab. An uninformed observer would have just figured that we were trying to get our drunk friend home!
After a lap around the field, I had to pee so we headed for home. I asked Melissa when she thought the baby would come, and she told me she was pretty sure we’d have a May baby. I did a little math and realized it was May 30th and there are 31 days in May. Wait a minute! I was NOT signing up for another endless night of labor in the blackness. This baby was coming by midnight, doggone it! In retrospect, it probably wasn’t coincidence that after so massive an attitude shift, on my very next contraction, I first felt the urge to push.
Once back in the house, I wanted to rest a bit, but the contractions were coming fast enough that it wasn’t worth laying down on the bed between them, so I just stayed on all fours. Melissa suggested we check my cervix again, saying that we might get great news or we might not be so happy with the news. I wanted to know how things were coming (I was ready to run a marathon at that point if it would get my baby out) so we checked. She asked me to let her feel my cervix while I had a contraction, which I was only able to do for a short while before asking her to stop. She said the good news was I was 9cm dilated. As that sunk in, I cried and hugged Melissa. I was going to have a baby after all!
Within moments of saying I needed to pee, I had a contraction and spilled a great deal of fluid on the bed, whether broken water or urine I don’t know. Shortly after, I was feeling the urge to push mildly on each contraction and I asked if I could get in the birth tub. I was surprised and glad to hear a yes!
Robert and Noah worked hard to fill the tub. When the water heater ran out of hot water, the tub was about a third full, but Melissa said I could get in while more water was heated on the stove. It felt great to be in the tub free to move as I wished. I asked for the music I had selected, and asked Noah to come upstairs to put it on. I warned him that I was naked that I wasn’t worried about it. He said he wasn’t either and got the tunes going. It made me happy to hear Melissa singing along with the Indigo Girls. When Noah came back in the kitchen he looked down at me and asked, “you have a tattoo on your breast?” I guess that was the end of secrets!
I began pushing without too much conviction, but quickly got rolling. I found a rhythm of three to four pushes with each contraction. Meanwhile, Melissa called Steph and Melanya to come to our birthday party. The warm water kept coming, I kept drinking Recharge (which was staying down!) and Steph helped me wipe my face and neck with a cool cloth.
When Robert and I had talked about the birth, we had envisioned being very connected and touchy. In the event, I didn’t want a great deal of touching, and didn’t want ANY touching once I was in the birth tub. I needed to feel unrestrained. I began to fear pushing because it felt like my guts were being pushed out instead of a baby. Melissa kept assuring me that things were fine and telling me to listen to my body and find my power. I did find my power and I pushed hard. After each contraction, I felt baby’s head and would show how far it still had to go by putting my thumb the appropriate distance from the tip of my middle finger. Steph and Melanya knew what I was doing, but Robert and Melissa did not. Once, after Robert had cracked a joke, he thought I was flipping him off and Melissa said, “you go, girl!” I found out about the confusion later.
I found it helpful between contractions to lean forward on the edge of the tub and hold someone’s hand, preferably Robert’s. Though I didn’t want to be connected during the contractions, human touch kept me anchored when not pushing. I began to feel like I was tearing as baby came closer to crowning. Melissa assured me that things were OK and that I could apply gentle counter pressure at the source of the pain. Steph then told me to listen carefully because she would help me slow down when baby crowned so I wouldn’t tear. I asked what was going to happen (control freak that I am) and Steph said baby would crown and it would be uncomfortable, then on the next contraction we would get the whole head, then the rest of baby. So much for good intentions- instead of crowning and waiting, baby came flying out like a little torpedo. I remember apologizing as baby was placed on my chest. I held the little grey form on my chest and he looked at me very clearly before starting to cry. I knew he was a boy before we had visual confirmation. I said, “Hi Axel,” while looking at Robert.
I held little Axel while Melissa helped me pass my placenta. I had expected everything to stop hurting when the baby was born, but I found I needed one hand to hold myself off the bottom of the tub. Axel tried to nurse while I pushed out the placenta. When the placenta came out, so did a “Jaws” quantity of blood. I asked if everything was OK and was told yes- that a membrane tore and it wasn’t a big deal.
Axel was getting cold, so he went onto his papa’s chest wrapped in a towel while Steph and Melissa helped me out of the tub. I was vaguely concerned with the amount of blood dripping into the absorbent pad I was wrapped in but nobody else seemed concerned. By the time we got back to the futon in the living room, Axel was nice and pink and I got him back. Steph and Melissa worked on the source of my bleeding. They gave me a shot of pitosin and another of methergine to help my uterus contract and stop the bleeding. The bleeding didn’t stop and I asked if I should eat some of my placenta. I got a surprised look and then a yes. I expected to have to will myself to eat it, but it didn’t taste like much of anything. Axel was trying to nurse, and did, but it was very hard trying to help him eat and have my vagina examined (I later learned that Melissa classified my bleeding as minor hemorrhage, but you’d never know it from how calm the midwives were. They never gave me cause to worry). I asked Noah to take of his shirt and have some skin time with his brother. He was happy to, and the brothers were fun to watch having skin time together.
Actually the best pictures of Axel early on were of him on Noah’s chest. Noah looked very rested and coifed- kind of GQ like. I joked that he was the stand in father as I looked like a tired bag of crap after the long night and stress of the birth event. Even though I was quite happy and content after baby and momma were OK, there was no hiding my haggard appearance.
Steph and I went to the bedroom to get me comfortable while Axel had his newborn exam. I could hear what was going on and knew Axel was less than ten feet ways, but I wanted my baby and was amazed by that strong mother urge. Eventually, the activity died down. The midwives went home and left our new family to get reacquainted in the outside world. Robert and I couldn’t go to sleep. We just lay in bed with the light dimmed and looked at our little miracle. Axel was so perfect sleeping soundly between us. The only thing to grab our attention finally was hunger. Robert heated up leftover Thai food that we scarfed in bed at 1AM. We somehow managed not to spill any on Axel.
The beauty of having a home birth is that the walk to the bedroom when it is time to turn in is familiar and close at hand. I was quite grateful that the evening was quieting down and we might actually take our beautiful new person to bed and while we mostly just stared at him and marveled. Eventually, there was some rest to be had; however, his every sound or silence had us turning on a light to make sure all was well. This little periodic breathing thing that newborns do is a bit disconcerting, so it took a bit of time for us to settle down and get used to his 4-8 seconds pauses.
What I learned from labor mirrors what I’ve learned from life. Attitude is everything. When I embraced labor, it became fun. It didn’t hurt less, but the pain became productive and energy giving instead of something to fight against. I think that every parent dreams that maybe their angel will make a difference. The reality is that if you never stop believing this, then it really does happen on some level whether subtle or large!
Every time I look at Axel, I’m amazed by him. I wonder what he’s come to teach us, and how the world will change with him in it. I’m grateful that I get to be mother to so miraculous a boy and that Axel has so wonderful a papa and big brother.
In the days and weeks following birth, my husband and I spoke into a digital voice recorder whenever we had poignant memories or thoughts, as well as recording our tellings of the birth story to close friends. At seven months postpartum, I still have not listened to them, but the tellings helped to form a coherent narrative, which I remember now as follows.
After our 40 week appoint with our midwives at ALMA, my husband said, “I don’t want to come to another appointment next week. I want to meet our baby!” I was finally feeling ready too. We went to bed the night before our next appointment, and around midnight I woke wondering if I could have urinated in my sleep, but quickly realized the trickle of fluid wasn’t pee! I called Melissa to say I thought my water had broken. She asked a few questions then confirmed this and suggested what I could expect in the coming hours, but that I could call back at any time. She encourage resting as much as possible, advice my husband was eager to accept! His first thought when I’d woken him was, “not yet, I need to sleep first!” I was too excited – finally knowing my baby’s birth date, feeling a little anxious, curious, and watching the clock – to get deep sleep, but i did doze on and off.
In those still, dark, quiet hours we both had visions of our daughter. We’d not found out he sex previously, but I grew certain that Ayla was joining us as the pregnancy progressed. The sensation that night that she had chosen us and this life actually gave me great calm, trust and confidence.
Things progressed exactly as Melissa predicted. Contractions began, very mildly initially, and over the next five hours drew closer together and increased in strength very gradually. During these early hours, I was surprised to actually be able to localize the sensation and feel my uterus gently tugging open my cervix. Around 6 am, I woke my husband again, as I was ready for him to time the contractions with the second hand of his watch. He was alert, excited and supportive, sitting behind me so I could lean back on his chest and squeeze his hand with ebb and recession of several contractions. They were lasting at least one minute and coming about five minutes apart. I called Melissa again; I could come in whenever I was ready, or stay home longer if that was more comfortable. I wanted to get out of bed so we got up to check the list I’d made of last minute things to add to the bags and to do in the house. (One list were things for me to do if a daytime labor got a slow start or was on and off for days, but my husband did not know that, so while I was trying to get ready and having to grip a chair or dresser during contractions, I was wondering ‘Why is he doing dishes and not helping me?!’. He had dutifully thought it was a To Do listfor him! We laughed about that later.)
It seemed like only a short time later I asked my husband to call Melissa again. She laughed, “I love when the husbands call; it means things are really moving along!” Contractions were every four minutes, and I didn’t feel able to speak much. Even though things were progressing gradually and it was not really painful, I still thought a little break would be nice, and had heard that the car ride and/or arriving at their hospital often slowed or stalled women’s labor. During the car ride, my belly and its sensations felt too big to fit in the front of the car, like the last clown crammed into the circus VW bug! Railroad tracks and the seatbelt were very uncomfortable, but we managed to call parents, my sister and a friend to tell them we were on the way.
I cried when we arrived at Alma and Melissa and Brandee sweetly met me at the door – the day was finally here! They ushered me up the stairs, and the room I’d had so many prenatal appointments in was now arranged for birth: the birth stool and ball were out, as were emergency equipment in a corner and medical supplies on a table, and candles were lit. Of course, we were so familiar and comfortable with Alma and our team that I did not get a break! They timed contractions and offered to check me; I was quite surprised to learn I was already a “stretch 7 cm” dialted! The midwives asked if I wanted to get into water and I was amazed it was ‘already’ time for that, but glad. As warm water began to fill the tub, we quickly found ourselves into the rhythym of laboring in our new setting. It was probably at this time that I subtly lessened my hold on normal time, entering into another physical, mental, spiritual dimension. The warm water was instantly soothing, a relief that told me I was well into the process. The contractions had progressively intensified and the water helped me to not resist them. The best advice I had been given was this: try to stay with what was happening in the moment, without lingering on the contraction which had just passed or anticipating the next one or wondering how long it had been or how much more it was going to be. I found myself repeating achoiceto open, to breathe, to help my body and baby by choosing not to tighten, resist or have aversion, a choice I made over and over and over again. The sounds I was making however were unfamiliar and unexpected, and I became concerned about what the baby was hearing. I voiced this to Brandee, who shifted my perspective by reminding me that they were completely natural, strong and healthy sounds, and were not scary for my baby. So, from then on, I made a lot of sound! (I joked after the baby tested her lungs and released her first big sound/cry that since she’d been hearing similar for hours it must have seemed like the thing to do!) I did not make high-pitched sounds, and my husband helped by toning low pitches for me to match if i sounded like i was tensing. Keeping tones low helped me focus on opening up, not clinching or tensing in resistance.
It didn’t seem like long before I was really resting for more than a moment of catching my breath, and Brandee told me I was in transition, a lull to regather some strength before the work of pushing out my baby. It seemed incredible to be at this point already, but the greatest sensation was the urge to rest and I actually did fall asleep between contractions leaning back against my husband’s chest in the tub.
Contractions began to intensify again and I was told I could push if I felt the urge to do so. The impulse to push was weak initially, but gained momentum. Pushing was a chance to be a more active participant and to help my body. Yet, I had the suspicion that there was some sort of blockage. Never having birthed before though, I just continued to push, as trying to articulate this vague perception seemed too difficult. Fortunately, Melissa and Kate began offering to check me and encouraging me to use the toilet. I got out and was unable to urinate. They strongly encouraged me, and we had the sink running, standing in the shower (incessantly redirecting my poor husband’s aim of the spray), a wash cloth on my neck back on the toilet, all to stimulate me to pee and I couldn’t! I wondered: how am I going to get a baby out if I can’t even pee? I questioned if there was some emotional block I wasn’t being honest with myself about, and searched for a cause within me for what felt like an inability to open and let it flow out. Nothing came to mind and this troubled me because I didn’t know how I was going to get passed it; it was the hardest moment of the labor and the only time I doubted. They helped me to the birthing stool where Kate checked me and discovered that my cervix had unevenly dilated. She held back the crescent and it was such a relief. We’d found the block I’d sensed in the tub, and she was also able to feel my contractions and pushing and gave me lots of affirmation that I was doing it just right and strong too, directing me with great encouraging words. By happy coincidence during this process, as she palpitated baby’s skull to determine baby’s position, a flood of pee gushed out! Kate wasn’t bothered in the least, and neither was I. The baby’s head had essentially clamped my urethra and the slight movement on the baby’s head had released the pressure. This physiological explanation came later, of course, but at the time I was just so relieved that my bladder was emptying and not going to be in the way, and that it apparently had nothing to do with insufficient strength or effort, nor my emotional, psychological or spiritual readiness! My confidence had wavered for a moment, but after this I felt much better and was able to stay with experience as it occurred without questioning. The lip of cervix was finally staying back on its own, and I was free to move about again. By now though I had been having back pain and found strong lumbar pressure essential with each contraction. It felt like a rebounding tightness that took over my belly, receded and then spasmed into my back. I could catch a quick breath and then my uterus was contracting again. This might sound terrible, and I know my husband had a hard time seeing me like this, but in my inner world, it truly wasn’t ever more than I could handle in each moment. The hard working uterus is a sensation unlike anything I’ve ever felt before; it certainly isn’t “pain” like we associate with an injury or a migraine. My body was working very hard, but as it was designed to, and, though it sounds cliché, it was true for me that I forgot the discomfort very quickly after it was over. To make it through this stage though, my awesome birth team helped me through a series of positions, from a supported side-lying on the bed, to on my knees over pillows being fed bits of a Nectar bar, to hanging on my husband from my arms around his neck and lifting my feet a foot off the ground!
Eventually, I was back in the tub, and most comfortable there. I did not know at the time that this phase was lasting a unusually long time, or that I was having “back labor.” Fortunately my midwives and husband did not talk to me in those terms, and not having those words and a story attached to them was very beneficial. They were so patient, subtle, supportive and encouraging, I assumed everything was as it was supposed to be, and kept to my work. We had prepared several playlists of music, but early on i had indicated a mellow mix of prayers and chants, including some by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. We had also brought several special items we imagined setting up when we arrived, but there was never a chance for that. There were moments however in which I was aware of the music (though everyone else probably got very tired of this playlist on repeat for hours!), or the presence in the room of things we’d been given or brought, and all the love from so many friends and family that they embodied; it wasn’t necessary to see them with my eyes, I could feel the support.
I later learned from Melissa and Kate that although baby was LOA when we arrived, she was pivoting in my pelvis. In the last months of pregnancy, I had done a lot of yoga and optimal fetal positioning, and baby had never been in a posterior position. I guess this peaked her interest in taking the scenic route out! When Kate felt baby’s skull when I was on the birth stool, she confirmed her suspicion that baby was perfectly posterior and twisting like a corkscrew. In the end, she turned a complete 360 degrees, emerging LOA! She has a prominent swirl of hair on her crown, which we think of as her spinning souvenir. All I knew at the time however was that labor was supposed to be hard work, and I kept gratefully accepting the water and smoothies which consistently appeared for me to sip if i wanted to (bendy straws should be on every birth preparation check list!). Most of all, I kept choosing to work through it with all I had in me. After I was back in the tub, I pushed more than 100%. A strength I could not imagine I possessed or that I could access just spontaneously arose. I felt baby’s head once with my fingertips. Then the power went out for many blocks around us! Someone brought in lots of candles, and the room was soft and quiet. Then baby began to crown, and that was the only part that really painfully hurt, but it was also very good motivation that baby was so close to being out. The end was near, but the only way to get it over was to go for it. In the scale of things, that crowning part was quite short.
I was leaning forward kneeling in the water when baby’s head emerged at 7:25 pm, and in a quick synchronized movement before the next contraction, they rocked me to leaning back onto my husband’s chest. The cord was loosely around baby’s neck and her shoulders were wide (but i didn’t know that then), so my midwives were, I suppose, quite hands on at this moment, but I don’t remember feeling that. And then baby was out! I asked if baby was a girl, and as they checked and said “Yes!” I said ” hello, Ayla” and felt her body in my hands as they placed her to my chest. I felt her warm, soft, tired, little body on mine and closed my eyes. The feeling of holding her is my clearest first memory of my daughter. We looked in her eyes and she looked back at me, and then her father greeted her, and she turned towards that familiar voice! Our amazement with her every feature, gesture, expression and sound began.
I remember a gentle tugging on the cord attached to the placenta still inside me, which was vaguely annoying as I wanted to be able to focus all my attention on our baby girl, but they reminded me I had one more thing to do. Pushing out the placenta, they promised with a laugh, would be much easier since it didn’t have any bones! I actually couldn’t remember even the next day the feeling of birthing it, it just seemed to slip out, but I do remember the midwives exclaiming over its big, healthy appearance!
They offered my husband the opportunity to cut the cord after it had ceased transmitting between Ayla and I, and he said some special words to Ayla as he did so. It seemed to happen so quickly that I was already being helped to the bed, but once I was lying down there, it felt so good. I was excited, but also exhausted! They left us to bond for a while and Ayla was so alert and searching us and getting nice and pink. I had help latching her on, and she nursed quite eagerly from the first time. The midwives then checked us both thoroughly. I had one tiny ‘skid mark’ and thus no tears or stitches. Ayla had quite a molded head after her long spin through the narrow passage and a couple of bruises from trying to navigate through all my bones, but was in great health. At this point, I became aware of a real headache coming on, and although I’d just delivered a baby totally naturally without any drugs, I requested Advil for my head! (This was good to take anyway, as the long pushing left me sore for days through my entire body!) We ordered a huge Cuban dinner, and I ate a half a chicken, rice and beans, plantains and licked the plate while Ayla slept next to me on the bed. The midwives headed home around 11 pm and a doula came to spend the night outside our door, helping me to the bathroom and with nursing throughout the night. On the second morning at Alma, I had a fabulous postpartum massage, which was amazingly therapeutic in acknowledging the hard work my body had done (which I had not really thought about since being absorbed with the baby) and beginning the balancing hormones and releasing tensions and restoring alignment in the pelvic and lumbar areas. Laura brought some cranial sacral therapy touches to Ayla in evaluating her skull, but the molding had disappeared and all the plates seemed normal. The care we received was absolutely incredible, from pampering and praising me to the way they modeled gentleness, respect and and concern for our baby.
The next day, Obama was elected president. We listened on the radio, feeling, in this old Victorian house, as though we lived in an age before television, until the results were announced incredibly early in the evening and immediately the entire city was alive with honking cars, fireworks, cheering in the streets. The joy we expected to feel on this occassion was definately a distant second place to having our baby, but it was quite moving to sense the nation, our friends and city all also celebrating in the fresh, new, hopeful beginnings we were feeling.
Giving birth was the most transformative, empowering and powerful experience of my life. I hope for all women to know that in pregnancy and birth, the hormones function with astounding precision, at least in my experience of natural childbirth, and I believe far more women are far more capable than they know. After channeling so much raw power, I was elated, in love, and wrapped in a soft, magical cocoon for several days. We had a “baby moon” for a while after we came home. I stayed skin-to-skin with Ayla in bed for the better part of a week, and we prolonged the magical sweetness and freshness of our new family for several weeks. The loving, congratulatory and complimentary words of my team also made me feel great about the whole process (though it was odd to hear that and go from such power and strength to states of total weakness and dependency on others just to get out of bed – humbling and also part of the perfect way we are made to be).
I later learned that had I been in a hospital, it would have been very unusual to have been permitted to push for six hours and I would have been told I needed as cesarean. In the midst of my labor though I did not doubt or fear, and neither did my team. Their supportive patient presence enabled Ayla and I to do our work, and we were never in any danger, as frequent fetal monitoring evidenced. To learn that, had I not been at Alma, my expreience might have been traumatic rather than inspiring and empowering has made me an even greater proponent of natural childbirth and midwifery. In the postpartum weeks, there were some emotional rollercoasters, but they never diminished my core belief that our birth was the best possible experience or my sense of accomplishment. I saw though how much more challenging these times would have been if I had been disappointed in our birthing process. My love for my daughter grows impossibly deeper every day; she is so immeasurably precious. We hardly knew the meaning of the word before her. Our gratitude for the kindness we received at Alma and from Kate, Melissa and Brandee, can never be repaid in full, and we hope to be fortunate enough to do it all over again with them in the future.
Told from the perspective of her Mama and Papa
At 34 weeks–a few weeks after our Bradley class had ended–we decided to change our care from the hospital midwife to Alma Birthing Center. After soaking in all the knowledge from the class and doing a little more research, we decided it was the best decision for us and our baby and we couldn’t have been more excited. It was and continues to be a great experience.
Her mama’s story: I loved being pregnant—all 39 ½ weeks of it! And up until the morning that I went into labor, I was convinced that our sweet Clara would be a June baby. With my due date being May 28th, it being my first pregnancy, and a history of late babies in my family, I was sure that I would go at least 1 week past my due date. And I was completely happy with it. I was still very comfortable, and although I was super excited to meet her, I was prepared to wait a little bit longer enjoying every kick and roll.
On May 25th (3 days before my actual due date), I woke up at 6:30am to my water breaking. After calling my midwife, Kori, and confirming that no real contractions had started yet, we decided I should eat something, try and sleep/rest, and just wait for my body to go into labor. She would call soon to check up. In hindsight, I’m so thankful for the opportunity to give birth at a birthing center.
The hospitals here in Portland require that you give birth no later than 24 hours after your water breaking in most cases. I really believe that not having any pressure to make my body hurry up and start labor really helped me relax and allowed me to go into labor sooner.
At 7:30am I started having some mild contractions so we decided to pack our bags and get things ready around the house. Brandon was really tired, from not sleeping well that night, and went back to sleep for a couple of hours. At about 9:30am the contractions started getting closer together so I decided to start timing them. They were maybe 5-7 min apart and still not super intense so I continued to rest on the couch and watch tv. At about that same time Kori called and I told her my contractions had started and where they were at. She said she would send one of my other midwives, Tarra, to our house between 11 and 12 to check in on me and Clara.
At 10:30am I woke Brandon up to let him know that Tarra would be here soon and that my contractions were getting closer together. By 11 my contractions had gotten to 45 seconds-60 seconds long and under 4 minutes apart. Tarra arrived at 12 and stayed for the next two hours with us, checking mine and Clara’s vitals during and in between contractions. (No cervical checks were done since my water had broken and were able to let me labor as long as possible because of that.) She basically just hung out with us and helped pass the time to see how fast I was progressing.
During those two hours, my contractions went from barely painful to really having to concentrate when they came. She had mentioned to Brandon as she was leaving that if my contractions continued in this pattern that we should consider making our way to the birthing center around 3 or 4. Kori’s and our desire was that we labor at home as long as possible, but we also didn’t want to wait too long since labor seemed to be happening pretty fast.
As soon as Tarra left at 2pm I was in intense pain (looking back now probably going into transition) and told Brandon that we needed to go now. He called Kori and told her that I was in a lot of pain and wanted to know if we should come in yet. She asked to listen in on a contraction. After hearing how I was dealing with the pain (aka moaning! ) she told Brandon that I sounded like I was ready and to make our way in.
Brandon was awesome in this whole process so far, using all the coaching techniques that he had learned. He was super calm and that really helped a lot. He helped me to the car and in our short 10 minute drive to the birthing center I had 4 or 5 contractions and those might have been the hardest since I was on my back in the car. At 2:45pm we arrived at Alma and were taken to our birthing room. The whole atmosphere was so serene and peaceful. They had the birthing tub filled and ready and the lights dimmed. I immediately got in the tub. It was the only thing that sounded good at that moment and after laboring in there for a while, I had no desire to get out. At about 3pm my mom arrived from flying in from Denver, Colorado and about that same time I started feeling the urge to push.
I told Kori how I was feeling and she said that my body knew what it was doing and that I should try and push. I pushed for an hour in the tub, changing positions and completely relaxing in the water in between. Brandon, the midwives, and my mom were awesome during the entire thing. Everyone was so encouraging and just let me do what my body was telling me to do. Brandon suggested different positions and kept a cold washcloth on my head. He was literally my strength when I was feeling too weak to push anymore. And when I was at the point where I didn’t feel I could push through another contraction, they were there telling me that I was doing great and that I could. At that point, Kori decided to check my cervix for a lip.
I did have a little bit of a lip left so I tried squatting during the next few contractions. That did the trick and after 30 more minutes of pushing Clara was born at 4:36pm (9 hours of labor total). This was such a special moment! I had so many emotions running through me: accomplishment, joy, gratefulness, and excitement just to name a few. I was finally looking into my baby’s eyes for the first time. After wondering what she would look like for 9 months, I could finally see for myself and she was even more beautiful than I had imagined.
She was immediately placed on my chest in the tub and we waited for the placenta to be born. After birthing the placenta and cutting the cord, Clara, Brandon, and I walked over to the bed and spent the next hour getting to know each other. I was feeling awesome and Clara was so alert so our time was spent sitting on the bed talking about the whole experience and staring at her. It was so great to have my mom there as a support and encouragement and to share in the whole process with me. After an hour the midwives came back in and checked her and me over. She was perfect and healthy weighing in at 6lbs 6oz and measuring 19 inches long. I had a tiny tear in my labia that required one stitch so that was taken care of while Clara had her newborn testing done next to me one the bed. We spent that night and the next at the birthing center just resting and enjoying our new baby girl.
At her 3 day check up, she was down to 5lbs 14 oz but was back up to her birth weight by the next week! She has been a great eater and sleeper from the start and today at her 2 week check up weighed 7lbs even She is a complete joy and we have had so much fun sharing our birth story with everyone. We are so grateful for the knowledge gained in our Bradley Class and our amazing experience with the midwives and doulas at Alma. We are now firm advocates of birthing naturally. It was such a joyous experience and I cannot wait to do it again.
Her papa’s story: Callie and I had been chatting more and more about the possibility of having this baby soon. We had recently switched to Alma Birthing Center, at 34 weeks, because of our desire to have a natural birth after taking the Bradley Method class. We were truly starting to consider the reality that we were about to be parents. A lot of emotions were running through our hearts and heads but we were excited nonetheless. We kept talking about how little Clara was going to be born late and about all the things that we needed to get ready and get done before she decided to come. We were just in relaxation mode trying to not get too anxious for the birth. On May 25th, three days early, Clara decided to make her appearance.
Callie came in and woke me up at 6:30am. I awoke (half asleep) to hear her say to me “I think my water just broke…” I barely vocalized, “What…??” She repeated herself; “I think my water just broke” and she showed me her night shorts that now had a wet spot. It clicked in my head, despite my grogginess, that this might actually be happening. I came to my senses and said “I should call your mom…so she can get on a flight.” Claudia, Callie’s mom, immediately began to try to find a flight to try and make it in time for the birth from Colorado. After making the call I told Callie “You better call Kori (Callie’s midwife) and tell her that your water broke.” Callie began to call as I finally started to roll out of bed and pull what little bit of my mind I had together for the response.
I heard Callie chatting with Kori on the phone. Callie hung up and said that Kori told her that labor could start very soon but may not start for quite a while. The best thing she could do is rest and let her body do its thing. If she did start labor that day, she would need her rest. Callie got all situated and crawled back into bed with me with a towel underneath her and we proceeded to get some rest. One hour later, Callie rolled over and woke me up again and let me know that she just had a contraction. Callie said to me, that her contraction was not that bad but uncomfortable enough that she was going to get up. She called Kori again who said that labor had begun and what she needed to do was get a good solid, healthy breakfast while she could still eat. I got up half asleep and began to do my husband duty of cooking breakfast. I took some sausage and bacon and threw it into a small pan and whipped some eggs together for a quick scramble. I grabbed some bagels and tossed them in the toaster. Callie threw down at least 3 eggs with cheddar cheese, a whole ‘everything’ bagel, sausage, and piece of bacon. After Callie’s belly was full, she told me to go back to sleep, get some rest and get rid of my grogginess, and that she would wake me up if they got worse or if she needed me (what a blessing!). Next thing I knew, it was 10:30…
Callie was just sitting on the couch with the computer in her lap typing away on Facebook updating her status about going into labor and chatting with a friend of hers online. I sat next to her to ask her how she was doing and immediately she went into a contraction after clicking the computer. She paused for a moment, looked down, and began to enter in this concentration mode that I had never seen before.
I sat there next to her and let her be and just observed to see what she looked like while she was contracting. She was tailor sitting so I ran my hand along her shoulders to make sure that she was not tensing up her back and shoulders. She was doing fine and I noticed that the computer was open to a contraction timing program that she had been using to keep track of her labor. After observing the first one I realized what this type of thing was going to look like so I could start my relaxation techniques that I learned in the Bradley class. Contractions kept coming every 5 – 6 minutes and Callie kept going into this concentration mode so I did my best to help her get through each one and then relax in between contractions. I helped her try a few different positions, tailor sitting, side lying, and eventually had her knees on the floor and chest on the couch with some pillows underneath. Each position was helpful in a different sort of way and I think it was good for her to change positions so she could release tension. I kept focusing on making sure she was drinking water and some Gatorade here and there so she could stay hydrated. We were waiting for one of her midwives to arrive; she had been scheduled to arrive sometime between 11:00 – 12:00.
At about 12:00pm Tarra arrived to take Callie and Clara’s vitals. She sat next to Callie and did her thing as I continued to provide Callie with relaxation techniques, coaching, and massage. Tarra stayed until about 1:30 – 1:45 and it was obvious that Callie had been progressing quite quickly. The contractions had moved to below 4 minutes a piece around 11:00 and they continued that pattern until Tarra left. Callie transitioned into a serious concentration mode and her moans became louder. I could tell she was working quite a bit harder and they were definitely closer together. Tarra decided to head back to the Birthing Center and I asked “If Callie continues to progress like this what time should we think about heading down to the Birthing Center.” Tarra was hesitant to put a time on it because every pregnancy is different. She had originally told me that if Callie persisted that she should come in around 4:00. However, when I asked her this time, she said if Callie continued to work hard like this we might consider 3:00 but 4:00 was still fine. We just needed to be open. Tarra left and Callie continued to progress quite hard. 2:00 rolled around and Callie was continuing to work extremely hard. This time, she told me that she was ready to go to Alma. I called Kori and asked what she thought. After listening to Callie through one of her contractions she suggested we head to Alma in about 30 minutes so that they had time to get the room ready. At 2:30 I had the car packed up, I put Callie in the car, and we proceeded to drive to Alma. Despite only having a 10 minute drive Callie probably had about 4 – 5 contractions in the car which drew a lot of attention from pedestrians and fellow drivers.
We pulled up to Alma and I jumped out and helped Callie get her way into the center. As we walked into Alma, there was Kori and Tarra waiting in our birthing room. They had already drawn up Callie a warm bath for her to relax in. Immediately I could tell that Callie was either in transition or beyond because the second we walked into the room Callie was stripping off her clothes to jump into the tub. She didn’t care who was watching or who was there, her modesty was gone and all she could think about was getting some sort of relief. I ran back out to the car a few more times to get the rest of the stuff and entrusted Callie into the midwives care. I also called to check in with Callie’s mom because I knew she had landed in Portland but was not at the birthing center yet. I told her that Callie was quite close and she better hurry.
Around 3:15 Callie vocalized her need to push. I basically let Callie do her thing once she was at that point. She gripped the side of the tub with more force and muscle than I had ever seen her flex. She changed positions between leaning her back against the side of the tub to being on her knees leaning over the edge of the tub. The whole time I was there by her side, putting cool cloths on her head (provided by the midwives), telling her to relax between contractions, reminding her that every contraction and push got her one step closer to Clara, and rubbing my hands (either stroking or through light massage) across her neck and back. Stephanie, Callie’s 3rd midwife of the team came in a few minutes after we had arrived; I had never met her before but I could tell right away who she was.
Finally, at about 3:30-ish Callie’s mom arrived. It was a very emotional moment because she walked in, squatted in front of Callie, grabbed her hands and just was an automatic overwhelming sense of encouragement. She jumped in right next to me helping with cool cloths and encouraging Callie.
Callie was continuing to push and I could tell she was getting tired. She even spouted out once “I don’t think I’m going to be able to do this….” We all were there immediately to let her know she could. Kori eventually around 4:00 decided to give Callie her first vaginal exam because she had been pushing for one hour and thought there might be a lip in the cervix. It was extremely amazing to think back on the experience and that moment because they just allowed Callie’s body to do the work rather than trying to step in. They did not check to see how dilated Callie was which I think was more beneficial in that Callie did not have to worry about the fact she was having the urge to push but was only 6 cm. or something. Kori noticed that Callie had a slight lip but was able to feel Clara’s head. She helped things along and told Callie that Clara was getting quite close. She encouraged Callie to get in more of a squatting position because it might be more conducive to opening up her pelvis and having Clara work her way down. While Callie was squatting and pushing, I applied pressure to the outside of her hips in order to help the pelvis open up and relax some pressure.
Callie finally flipped over so that her arms were dangling over my knees and her chest was upwards because the midwives said she needed to choose if she wanted to birth the baby out of the water or completely in the water. Callie decided that she was comfortable and not going to move. Another contraction came and Callie continued to push, she seemed like she was getting quite tired now. The midwives suggested that I help hold her up in the air because she said she was getting tired and she mentioned that her arms kept falling asleep. I then hooked my hands around her upper arms and began to hold her up, nearly suspended as she pushed so she could focus all of her energy on pushing that baby out. When Callie pushed again, the midwives and Claudia said that they could see Clara’s head popping out. They mentioned that she had quite a bit of hair on her! I suggested Callie reach down and touch the head in order to give her a little more connection to Clara and a little more desire to push and get her out. Callie did and became extremely excited amidst her exhaustion. Kori mentioned that it was only going to take a few more solid pushes and that Clara would be there. She mentioned to Callie to take it slow because she wanted her perineum to stretch slowly to prevent tears. Callie gave it all her might when the contractions came on and Clara continued to come one step closer to us. Finally, Clara’s shoulder began to poke out and she was nearly there. Callie gave it one last push and Clara came fully out and Kori guided her out and right away put Clara on Callie’s chest.
Callie was weeping with joy as she told our little girl “hi” for the first time. I was leaned over putting my hands on Clara’s back and overjoyed with Callie. The next 10 minutes seemed like a complete blur. I remember asking after a few minutes if they would check and make sure Clara was a girl since the ultrasounds can never be 100% sure. I also remember Kori mentioning to us that it would not be long before Callie had to push out the placenta. Clara’s cord was quite short so we could not fully lift Clara up to me so I had to just wait and touch her with my hands. After the placenta was birthed, I cut the cord and Tarra put on the rubber band to keep the cord shut. Now, it was my turn to hold Clara so they could empty the tub and clean Callie up. I had already had my shirt off in order to not get it drenched in case I popped in the water so I was already prepared for the skin-to-skin bonding time with my new baby. Callie released Clara into my arms and I gently pulled my feet out of the side of the tub. I walked over to the queen bed that was in the same room and sat down holding Clara next to my skin with a towel on the outside. I could not believe that I was finally a father, a daddy to a little girl. I was so pumped and excited to finally meet little Clara and see what she looked like. My arms were exhausted and my lower back was extremely sore and tired from leaning over and holding Callie up but I did not care. I was in my moment, similar to that moment when you get married and have your first dance; everything else around just faded in the background.
Callie eventually joined me on the bed and we both sat up next to her on the bed and just enjoyed our few moments as a new family. It was amazing! The midwives let us have our bonding time alone and rest for a little bit before they even suggested doing the measurements and weight. This was nice because we did not have to feel rushed or feel like she was apart from us the early moments of her life. She could feel safe in our arms before she had to experience being naked on the scale by herself. Our new family had begun, our parenthood had begun, our lives would never be the same but this is what Callie had worked 9 months for. Callie was so awake and ready to be Clara’s momma and hold her; Clara was extremely alert, eyes open ready to be our little B. Amazing!
As I reflect back on the experience I cannot help but think about what some of the people had said to us about birth. Many people had said “Good luck!” when we told them that Callie was going to give birth naturally. I remember people telling us that their wives had planned to give birth naturally before they entered the process and the immediate moment that they experienced intense pain their wives had asked for drugs. Callie did not ask for drugs the entire time. She only expressed the words “I don’t think I can do this” twice when she was quite exhausted. But, that is what the midwives and I were there for; to remind her that she could do this. I remember men telling me about their fears and struggles with child birth because they felt so helpless watching their wives in such pain and that there was nothing they could do about it. I never experienced that because I was connected with Callie the whole time and active during the whole process. I was helping her relax, telling her to breathe, rubbing her back, pushing on her hips, rubbing her sacrum area relieving tension, putting cold wash cloths on her head and holding her up when she was tired. It was rewarding that I was a part of helping her get through this birth and relieve her intense pain.
I never imagined giving birth at a birth center or having a water birth but now that it happened this way I would never have it any other way. I know for sure that we will do a natural birth for all of our other children after this and I wish it could be at Alma Birthing Center again. Alas, we are moving back to Colorado to be closer to family and will not still be in Portland. Our experience with Kori, Tarra, and Stephanie was amazing as well as the two nights that we stayed at Alma.
Alma provided us with doulas the entire time we were there who would come in every so often, not intrusively at all, and check on us or ask if we needed anything. They checked Callie and Clara’s vitals, talked about breast feeding, and even offered to hold Clara for an hour if we needed to get a little shut eye (a service we didn’t need because Clara was an awesome sleeper). One night I went outside the room with Clara because she was making a lot of noise and Callie was not sleeping. One of the doulas chatted with me about my experience, held Clara for a few moments and answered all the questions that were running through my mind (thanks Courtney!). They cooked us two meals each day and ordered out for the other meal; one gal even cooked pork sausage for us even though she was a vegan and cooked some scallions and put them on top of our eggs that she had brought from her own garden (thanks Melanya!). The other doulas were amazingly helpful as well.
We were completely pampered for those first few days and spent some quality time resting up and making sure we were completely prepared to do this thing on our own. Callie also got set up with a few sitz baths during those two days to help her heal and even got a full body massage the morning of the 2nd day. What a blessing it was to be there and experience this birth with Alma and our midwife team. Claudia was blown away at how much she did not know when she had given birth to Callie and her other children. She too was apprehensive at first about the birthing center but after watching this amazing process of birth she was a ‘believer’ as well. Finally after our two night stay we packed up and prepared to head home. Clara was so small, 6 lbs. 6 oz., that she did not even fit into some of her newborn clothes. We put the huge outfit on her, put her in her car seat, and said goodbye to the ‘Lily Room’ which had been our makeshift home for a few days. It was now time to begin the rest of our lives as parents and bring Clara home…
I had a plan. A good plan. I learned a thing or two the first time around, we had the same fantastic birth team, and my second labor was going to be different. My second labor was going to be fast, I was going to be happy, I wasn’t going to hemorrhage, and I wasn’t going to puke…
When midwife Melissa asked when I thought the baby would come, I told her, “May 16th”. I was, therefore, not surprised to go into labor around 5PM on May 15th. “Fine,” I told myself. “Baby will be born after midnight. Short and sweet- I like it. Axel (our 2 year old) will sleep through the whole thing.
Since walking was the thing that moved my first labor along, I went out for a power walk when contractions started. It worked; my contractions were 7 minutes apart when I started, and nearer than that when I got home. Midwife Susannah brought the tub over and set it up while my husband, Robert, and I kept walking. My 18-year-old step-son, Noah, popped over for a visit, announced that one labor was enough for him, gave me a hug, and left again.
Since I was cranky and mean to Robert in my first labor, I was determined to have more fun and be nicer the second time. It worked. We walked and laughed and contracted and cuddled our way up and down the block until midnight. Contractions weren’t getting stronger, closer together, or doing anything else to make Susannah think a baby was coming immediately. She couldn’t even feel my cervix, it was so far back. Sigh… and so much for walking those contractions on.
Off to bed. Robert went to sleep- he knew from baby one that resting during labor is key for everyone. I slept a little between contractions, but was mostly pouty that I wasn’t in active labor.
About 2AM, I started puking. “Really, I’m already at three strikes? Slow, grumpy, AND barfing? You’ve got to be kidding me!” I was, however, prepared for puking. I asked for my homeopathy book and discovered that pulsatilla is good for crankiness and puking during labor.
It worked! Puking stopped and I was able to get some (mostly restful) sleep. I woke up in the morning without a contraction in sight. Thoroughly exhausted and dejected, I called Melissa to report my lack of progress. We decided on a walk to see about getting things moving. If no contractions, then a nap. We loaded up Axel in his stroller and walked down to Alma (we’re only 4 blocks away). I had one contraction the whole time, and it wasn’t very impressive. “Fine. I’m going back to bed.”
A very strong contraction woke me up and it was off to the races from there. At some point in the late morning, Melissa came by for a checkup. I was 7 centimeters dilated! “Good. I knew these new post-nap contractions were getting me somewhere!” Melissa suggested staying upright, as the baby was still pretty high. I more or less cheerfully sat on my couch, ate salty watermelon, and contracted.
Susannah came back and started on filling the birth tub (it’s a 2 hour job). Ruthie, my friend and acupuncturist, came and worked her magic. Axel and Grandma (my mom) played outside and attempted to have a normal day. Robert worked on the birth tub and let me hold onto him during A urine analysis showed ketones. I was low on calories and metabolizing my body. No good.
The answer was to eat some protein. I had a go at chicken, but couldn’t get it swallowed. It was all I could do to stay upright and awake. I was very awake for contractions, but I felt like I was floating in and out of consciousness the rest of the time. I was starting to get antsy that Steph (our third midwife) and Melissa weren’t there yet. I was not going to have a baby without them, and it was starting to feel important that they come. I announced that it was time to push. I wondered how I could push in my semi-conscious state, but labor is not for over-analyzers. We later figured out that this semi-conscious period was transition- something I didn’t experience at all in labor one.
I suggested that Axel and Grandma take a walk. I wasn’t convinced that the birth tub was going to be a quiet affair, and (even though we’d been reading homebirth stories about how mamas are sometimes noisy in labor) I didn’t want to scare Axel.
Steph and Melissa arrived and I climbed into the birth tub in the kitchen. I contracted a bit more and decided, “maybe I’ll push a bit.” I did, but not very hard. I couldn’t feel the baby at all. “Fine, I’ll push harder. Ah! There’s a head way up high.” I got down to pushing in earnest. The baby dropped I was sure that I would be braver about pushing the second time. I knew what to expect after all. Wrong! Once again, crowning completely unhinged me. After keeping silent for 20 plus hours of labor, I screamed my head off trying to birth the head. Something about feeling one is coming apart at the seams… Melissa suggested lowering the pitch of my voice because low tones (like grunting or guttural yelling) are more productive than high pitched screaming. As usual, Melissa’s suggestion worked, but I was in full-blown panic mode. I didn’t know what to do. Just like the first time, Steph came and put her face up to mine and gave me a plan- breathe and push the head out. “Perfect! A good simple plan. I can do that.” I was able to recenter myself, and after a huge effort, the head came out.
In my first labor, the whole baby came at once. From crowning to done in one contraction. This time, I got to enjoy the sensation of resting with a head sticking out of me. “Oh my goodness, it feels good to have that head out!” One more big push got the job done, and Liam Michael slid out into the Twenty-two hours of labor; twenty minutes of pushing; one healthy baby boy, born at 4PM on May 16th; and one healthy mama. Liam needed a little help with latching, but he needed no assistance with cuddling! He happily laid skin to skin while I smiled at him.
Axel and Grandma got home from their walk. Axel’s smile was bigger that I’ve ever seen when he saw his baby brother. He had been waiting patiently for baby Liam, and he was finally here.
I had a plan. The universe had a different one. Liam Michael is here to teach us. Our family is now complete. Three miracles, two lucky parents, one happy family.
Editor's note: Alma midwives no longer attend births past 42 weeks gestation.
My son’s estimated due date was July 5th so by July 19th I was going a bit insane and doing everything in my power to naturally induce labor. My husband Tony and I decided that if I didn’t go into labor naturally by the 22nd we wanted an induction in the hospital.
This of course was a worst case scenario that we both desperately wanted to avoid. My days were filled with walking, having sex, acupuncture, nipple stimulation, acupressure,raspberry leaf tea and primrose oil. On the 19th I started to experience contractions that were much more painful than any Braxton Hicks. I had never felt so thrilled to feel pain.
These contractions went on for two days and they would wake me up in the middle of the night but despite all my best efforts they wouldn’t become regular so I felt extremely frustrated. I began to lose hope of ever going into labor naturally.
On the 21st I had an appointment at Alma to check up on my son and make sure everything was still going okay. At the appointment I asked my midwife Kori if she could try to do another membrane sweep as a last ditch effort to get things going. She said sure.
Immediately after she did the sweep I had a pretty painful contraction but I didn’t get excited because I had experienced so many contractions in the last few days and none of them had led to active labor. I got up from the bed and had another one. By the time I had gone to the bathroom and put my shoes on I had at least three more contractions. Things suddenly seemed to be happening but I still wasn’t convinced that the contractions would stick around.
My husband and I made the trek to the car. Contractions were coming every 2 minutes and they were intense. I grabbed his hands tightly with each contraction and squatted into each one like Kori had instructed me to. Then I faced the car ride back to our apartment. It seemed strange to be leaving the birth center when I was having contractions every two minutes but off we went. I put my headphones on and got on my knees in the backseat. I squeezed the head rest as tight as I could during contractions. The melancholy tune of Bon Iver’s “Michicant” combined with the realization that I might finally be in labor caused tears of relief to roll down my cheeks. After Tony parked the car he said “Hurry, we don’t have much time before your next contraction.” We laughed and ran/waddled as fast as we could towards our apartment but right before we got to the gate I felt a surge coming.
Tony instinctively led me to the side of the sidewalk and I squeezed his hands tight while I kneeled into a squat. Once we got into the apartment it only took a few minutes for my mother who was staying with us to figure out that things had started. I continued to labor in our apartment for a few more hours before telling Tony to call my midwives to tell them that things were still regular and strong.
Soon after we made the phone call, Kim (my midwife apprentice) came over and started taking vitals and doing some labor support. A few hours later, Tara came over to see how things were going. She checked me but refused to give me a number and told me things were changing and progressing. I laid in my bed with Tony for most of the time. I squeezed his hands and arms and looked to him for support with each contraction. I remember during one contraction while I was sitting on the toilet Tony was kneeling in front of me and as I contracted I squeezed his hands and stared into his eyes. By the end of my contraction he had tears in his eyes and he told me he could see so much pain in my eyes. Kim had me do some cat and cow yoga poses and crawl up our front steps to encourage good positioning. Around midnight I felt a gush while I was lying in bed and I knew my water had broken. My amniotic fluid was a bit discolored and because I was 42 and a half weeks I was concerned about meconium but my midwives assured me it was nothing to be alarmed about. Around two in the morning Tara said we could make our way to the birthing center which we did. The car ride was rough but it wasn’t as terrible as I had anticipated. I continued to labor all through the night and next morning at the birthing center. I laid in the bed with Tony who got some sleep (which made me jealous because I was so tired). Tony and I got into the birthing tub a few times which felt nice but the contractions were still so painful. My midwives had me eating small bites of food which I hated them for; they also had me drinking lots of fluids, crawling up the stairs, sitting on the toilet backwards with pillows, walking, doing cat cows, squatting, sitting on the birthing ball, using the breast pump and holding on to the ropes attached to the ceiling while squatting. All of these tasks seemed completely impossible but Tony encouraged me to try everything for at least a while and I knew it was all in my best interest.
The next afternoon came and I knew I had been in labor for 24 hours. My contractions also seemed to take on a whole new level of pain. I was now yelling through each one as loud as I could. I also started to feel them in my lower back. I was exhausted. I was starting to feel out of control with pain. I told Tony I couldn’t do it and he reassured me that I could do it and I was doing it. He told me how strong and amazing I was. He told me how beautiful I was. He told me he felt like we were going to meet our son soon. He was the most amazing and supportive partner I could have ever asked for but somehow it wasn’t enough. I had a nagging feeling that things weren’t progressing. I knew that I needed the end to be near but I felt sure that it wasn’t. My contractions were so painful by this point and I felt so unable to go on. It was at this point that I realized there was a good chance I was in transition, which meant that the end was near. About an hour later I told my midwife Kori that I needed her to check me. I needed to know that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Before she checked me I decided internally that if I wasn’t dilated to an eight or nine, I needed to go to the hospital for an epidural so I could rest and have the energy to make it through the rest of labor. She checked me. She told me that I was only five centimeters dilated and my heart sank. It was at that moment that I announced to everyone that I needed to go to the hospital. The midwives were all very understanding and didn’t seem surprised by my decision. Kori admitted that things weren’t going as well as she would like. I was 42.5 weeks which is risky, I had been in labor for 26 hours, there was meconium in my fluid and I now had a mild fever. She revealed that going to the hospital was probably a good idea at this point.
It was then that my husband Tony had a devastating change of attitude. It was beyond obvious that he disapproved of my decision to go to the hospital. He vocalized it saying, “I think we should use every tool we can here at the birthing center before even considering going to the hospital.” The only other tools were getting IV fluids and having Kori further break my bag of waters (the initial break was a high leak). I felt certain that neither of these tools would drastically improve the situation. Tony didn’t think going to the hospital was necessary, but
I knew that it absolutely was.
The transfer to the hospital was by far the most horrible part of my birthing experience. I had zero desire to have my baby in the hospital and I was devastated by the turn of events that had forcibly led me to the decision I had made. Also, traveling in the car for the third time while I was in labor and during the most painful contractions so far was absolutely horrendous. Lastly and most importantly, Tony had hit a lack luster wall of disappointment in me and this made the trip to the hospital unbearable. He stopped touching me. He stopped talking to me. It was like I no longer existed. I felt completely alone and like a huge failure. It’s funny because my husband is the most influential person in my life. I consistently look to him for guidance and support in every decision I make but this was entirely different. I had to come to this decision completely unaided and I knew that’s how it had to be. People may assume that deciding to transfer to the hospital for an epidural would be an easy way out of an awful and painful situation but I would argue that it was the most difficult part of my labor and took all of my strength. I knew it had to be done and for me personally, going through with it was like facing a huge fear.
I was wheeled into the hospital and accepted my role as the crazy woman in labor who is yelling and everyone stares at. I was extremely nervous about getting an epidural but after I did the amount of relief it brought me was considerable to say the least. I eventually stopped shaking uncontrollably and was finally able to relax my body. My midwives stayed by my side through the whole transfer and helped reassure me every step of the way. They were truly amazing.
The first thing they did when I was admitted was check me. I was only at a six and my son’s head was starting to swell from being wedged in the birth canal. My fever had also gone above 100 which was a cause for concern and a sign of infection so they administered a dose of antibiotics. I later found out that if you develop a fever of 100 or higher while in labor at Alma they immediately transfer you to the hospital, so my decision to transfer had been made right before my midwives would have made the same decision for me. Shortly after my epidural, Tony came over to my bedside and gave me a kiss. He said he was sorry for not being more supportive about my decision. I was relieved to know that his disappointment in me was short-lived.
Not long after my epidural my son’s heart rate started dropping after each contraction so the nurses kept coming in and having me switch sides. A few hours later I was checked again and I was still a six and my son’s head was more swollen. The midwife at the hospital told me that the only option left to encourage dilation and have my son vaginally was pitocin. Because I am a firm believer that pitocin is a terrible drug that only causes problems during labor I had a hard time with considering using it but they assured me that if it caused problems they could quickly turn it off. After discussing it with my midwives I told them to go ahead and give me the pitocin. Almost immediately after they started the pitocin, my contractions did become stronger and closer together but along with that, my son’s heart rate started dipping way too low so they had to turn the pitocin
It had now been close to 35 hours since my labor had started and I was only dilated to a six with no signs of progression. My son and I were not doing well and there were several risk factors causing a lot of concern. This is when the doctors came in and talked to me about the dreaded cesarean delivery, which at this point came as no surprise to me. I knew that I had tried everything I could to have a vaginal delivery and I knew it would be selfish to continue on at my son’s expense only to avoid a surgery that I didn’t want. I needed it all to be over and I needed my son to be healthy. I remember looking at Tony. I saw exhaustion and sadness in his eyes and I could feel it in mine as well. We gave our consent and pre-op began. Before they took me to the operating room Tony’s mother who had been nearby for the duration of labor came in to say a prayer with me. After she prayed we looked at each other with tears in our eyes and she said something I will never forget, “You did everything you could.” This was all I needed to hear.
Next I was pumped with all sorts of drugs and carted away to a scary operating room with what seemed to be the brightest lights on the planet. I panicked because I couldn’t move my body which was a very unsettling and claustrophobic feeling. Tony stood next to me and I squeezed his hands while they cut me open and tugged and pulled for what seemed like hours. Tony watched the entire surgery. I was shocked and disturbed by how much of what they were doing I could feel. They finally took my son out and the second I heard him making noises I felt an overwhelming sense of relief. I looked at Tony and asked, “What does he look like?” and with a beautiful sense of pride, he said, “He looks like me.” My son was placed right onto my chest and I just stared at him. I remember feeling so amazed by how perfect he looked. Perfect in every way possible.
My midwives stayed at the hospital the entire time and reassured me and advocated for me. They took my placenta from the hospital and gave it to Kelley Burke for encapsulation and they helped my son latch on and nurse for a bit right after he was born.
My son was at last in my arms and my labor was finally over. My son’s birth didn’t go as I had hoped it would but if I did it again, I wouldn’t do anything differently, and I have no regrets. I got to experience labor naturally and unmedicated. Doing so made me realize how strong I am. I can look back on it knowing that I did everything I could. I faced labor head on and without fear. It is a right of passage that every woman has to experience for herself before becoming a mother. My labor was long and tough but I made it through and learned a lot about myself in the process. Most importantly, I now have a beautiful and healthy little spirit who blesses my life every day. There is nothing more amazing or significant than that.
I was very shocked when I first found out that I was pregnant. I had this worry about bringing a child into today’s society. After taking it all in, my first thoughts were how am I going to give birth to my child? I had this dreadful feeling about hospitals and doctors. It gave me anxiety to think about being hooked up to machines, not being able to move freely, and thinking of the nurses taking my baby away to do everything they do with them as soon as they are born. There seemed to be so many negatives about giving birth in a hospital, for me and my child. I lived in Indiana with my boyfriend Roderick. He and I had thoughts of moving to Oregon because we had family who lived there. When we found the Alma Midwifery online we had no doubt that we were going to go to Oregon and see what this place was about. In Indiana that kind of option is illegal. Due to certain circumstances Roderick and I had to move in with my mother to be able to live here in Oregon. After just a couple weeks of being here, it felt that maybe we made a mistake coming here because of reasons such as the stresses of living in my mom’s house, how finding a good job here was so difficult, and how being about to afford our own place seemed near impossible for at least a good while. I was already 33 weeks pregnant when I signed up with the Alma Midwifery. My Midwife team was Melissa, Stephanie. and Chelsea. They were the sweetest ladies ever. In just the short amount of time I had with them I got to be so comfortable with them it felt like we were family. It was so clear that they new exactly what they were doing and was always totally honest and real with me. They never pushed anything. They were always very open minded and supported the decisions I made. I had no doubt it my mind that I wanted to have my baby at the Alma birthing center and that these ladies were the ones who I wanted there to support and guide me while bringing my little Nolan into this world.
On January 12th, my son’s due date, at five a.m., I awoke to constant contractions. They were ten to fifteen minutes apart and only about ten seconds long. They did not stop. It went on all day. I was able to take one nap at about noon for maybe an hour. By six p.m. my contractions were getting so intense that I could not help but focus on them. They were five minutes apart but only about 30-40 seconds long. At around eight p.m. I decided to lay in a bath of warm water to relax. The warm water seemed to ease the discomfort I was having. At about nine p.m. I had called Melissa to let her know what was going on with me, She had given me amazing advice and sweet words to keep me confident. Anytime I ever needed to call one of my midwives one of them ALWAYS answered. Anyway, I tried watching a funny movie with my boyfriend to keep my mind off the intense contractions. They felt like the most intense cramps you could ever have. My body got to be like a clock. I was having contractions every two-three minutes for exactly 50 seconds. When it got to be sixty seconds I called Melissa. We were talking about how Chelsea was going to come out to my house to monitor everything that was going on and let us know when it was time to head out for the birthing center. I had a contraction on the phone with Melissa. I had to stop talking and breathe through it. She told me how amazing I was doing and said it sounds like you just need to go ahead and head out to the birthing center. It was like she was in tune with me and body even from afar. Everything was happening for me so fast. My boyfriend loaded up the car and off to the birthing center we went.
The car ride was intense. It made me very nauseous. I had to roll down the window. It helped me to breathe with the wind. I had to ask my boyfriend to stop speaking to me. It got to where I just needed to focus on me and my body. We arrived at the birthing center at eleven thirty p.m. Chelsea and Melissa had set up the Lilly room for us. I felt so relieved to be there. The lights in the room were dim. They fixed the temperature just how I wanted it to be. There were candles lit all around. The giant tub was ready and filled with hot water for if I decided to get in. Our room had lovely plants, and pictures of mother nature. It had wonderful natural vibes. My midwives needed to check my vitals but they were so gentle with me. They spoke softly and were so accommodating to my every need and question. They would leave the room and come back just to make sure everything was going ok. I was trying every position I could and nothing was comforting. I decided to get into the birthing tub. The hot water was so relaxing and I felt almost weightless. I was able to relax both physically and mentally. My contractions were getting stronger and were one minute apart at that time. I felt pretty nauseated due to the intense waves so I felt like I should try walking around. My boyfriend and I left are room and it turned out that walking was not working so well for me. I had to get into the dance position with my boyfriend. I started to gag and Chelsea ran to get me a bowl. I threw up my guts. I did not have to be embarrassed. I had ended up throwing up four times that evening and each time Chelsea was right there telling me it was ok and being very caring. I knew that I had to get back into the tub it was the only place I could relax. The real intensity of birth had hit me. I started to have the most intense back pressure. Chelsea started rubbing my back in a way that was almost unreal. It literally almost relieved all the discomfort. It didn’t even feel like hands she was like a machine! She was an angel through it all. She sat there on the side of me making sure I drank water and massaging me whenever I needed. It got to where I couldn’t speak all I could do was moan and groan. When I would look at her like I couldn’t do it anymore she said you can do it you are doing so well.
There is no way to describe giving birth. It felt like such a rush. It got to where I felt like I was in another world. I was totally just within my body. I was moaning what sounded to me like some kind of animal call or something! I had no sense of time at that point. I stayed in the tub on all fours rocking my hips back and forth. I felt the need to push every so often. I could feel my baby moving downward and my body opening up. I could not speak or really look at anyone. I just squeezed my boyfriends hand. I focused on the thought of my body opening like a flower. I could hear my midwives sweetly saying yea and making sounds of encouragement. Next thing I know I am making my way to the edge of the tub. My baby was crowning. It happened so fast. Part of me wanted to let his head just stay where it was but I knew it was time to push him out. I yelled he is coming! I was pulling myself up on to the edge of the tub and was not in the water. Here Nolan came right above the water! Lovely Stephanie caught Nolan for me. She immediately put him in my arms. It was 4:27 a.m. I was overfilled with joy and nervous at the same time. It was love at first sight. He was only six pounds and two ounces. I sat there in the water and waited for my placenta to come. It took only about ten minutes. I was in labor for only twenty four hours. I was so fortunate for that and the fact that there was no complications. My midwives made sure he was ok and everything was ok. When they left we had doulas looking out for us. They were wonderful. They went out and got us food when we were hungry. They helped me walk to the bathroom, cleaned up after us, helped me with the latch to feed my child. We stayed over night and left the next afternoon. I was almost sad to leave. We were so taken care of and made to feel more at home than home.
All together the experience was amazing. If I were to have another child I would do it the exact same way and at Alma. The Alma family are wonderful people. My midwives are passionate, down to earth caring ladies. They love babies and completely respect what the woman is going through. I feel empowered and full of love after my birthing experience. I would not have changed a thing.
On Tuesday January 17th, 2012 I woke up and worked a little bit, then went to Zumba class at the gym and did about 15 minutes on the elliptical machine. I did what I could at Zumba and my moves were certainly not as precise as they could be but I was having fun because, hey, it’s Zumba! How can you not have fun! At 11am I had my 40 week appointment with the Alma midwives. I was concerned about going extraordinarily past my due date (January 16th) so they offered to do a membrane sweep of my cervix to stimulate hormone production in that area which can sometimes encourage labor to come. After that, they suggested that if I really wanted to get things moving I could go to acupuncture for a labor induction treatment. However, my cervix was 80% effaced and I was 4cm dilated so my body was doing what it was supposed to do which was very reassuring for me. I decided to go to acupuncture for the treatment and then went home to work some more. Morgan came home from work and we had dinner and just relaxed at home and watched Louis C.K.’s Hilarious.
We got ready for bed and just as I was getting under the covers I started noticing cramping and discomfort at semi regular intervals. I thought “could this be it? Is this what contractions feel like? Could it be starting?” As opposed to obsessing over it I decided if it was labor, it would be in my best interest in get as much sleep as possible. I fell asleep around 11:30 and figured that the contractions would wake me up as they got more intense. Sure enough, I woke up around 3:30 not being able to sleep through the contractions anymore. I rested and started timing the intervals which were about 10 minutes apart at that point. I woke Morgan up and told him what was going on. Around 4:30 I texted the midwives Kori and Stephanie and told them what was happening. Kori said “let me know when they are closer and more consistent” and Stephanie said “looking forward to seeing you at the birth center in the next couple of days.” I thought “Couple of days! More like couple of hours!” The contractions got more and more intense and were about 4-5 minutes apart around 8am. I texted Kori and Stephanie back and said I think it’s time I come to the birth center because things are happening fast! Stephanie came over around 8:30am to check my cervix and see how things were going and said yep, it’s time to go! During this time the contractions were getting VERY intense. I threw up a couple times and my bowels cleared themselves so there was nothing left to clear out except a baby!
By the time we got everything in the car, and made our way to the birth center it was about 9:30am. I had 3 contractions in the car which was no fun at all. It was amazing how fast and intense they were coming and I was starting to feel out of control with the pain. We made our way up to our room and the midwives had filled the giant bathtub. I couldn’t wait to get in it because my back was killing me and I was hoping it would help ease the pressure. After getting in the tub I only had a few contractions before I started feeling the urge to push. I think the midwives were surprised at how fast things were going for a first time mom. Morgan was by my side on the edge of the tub doing his best to coach my breathing and keep me under control but honestly, it was happening so fast I couldn’t really gather myself and was starting to scream and growl like an animal at each contraction. It was very difficult to slow down and use any of the techniques that we learned in the birth classes. My body was truly taking over and doing what it was designed to do.
Let me be totally honest with you, I completely underestimated the intensity of labor and birth. It is true that there is no way to describe what it feels like and there is nothing to compare it to. It’s not like playing roller derby, running marathons, or getting tattoos. It only feels like labor and birth. It also feels like you are pushing the baby out of your butt, not your vagina, which was surprising to me. I continued to labor in the tub, bite down on towels, doubt myself that I could do it, ask everyone in the room how many more contractions I would have to endure, and plead with them for it to be over.
Midwives Kori, Stephanie, and Tara were very encouraging (although i couldn’t hear them very well because I was screaming and growling so loud!). My husband Morgan was so encouraging and reminding me that I WAS doing it. That reassurance helped me keep going. I had made good progress in the tub and baby’s head was beginning to crown but my legs were starting to fall asleep because of the kneeling/squatting position I was in and I couldn’t find another position in which I was comfortable. Kori suggested I get out and try the birthing stool which is like a toilet made out of wood. I had never seen a birthing stool before but it sounded good to me. They helped me over to the stool and had the area all prepped to deliver the baby. The first push was the total “ring of fire” that you hear about and it was insanely painful. The midwives were trying to get me to slow down the pushes so that my skin had time to stretch (apparently I’m a very strong pusher!). As much as I knew how that would be in my best interest to allow the skin time to stretch, I got to a point where I didn’t care and just wanted her to be born and for the intensity to be over. So, it only took 2 more pushes after that to birth my babies head. Morgan was in position to catch the baby along with midwife Tara. One more push and her body was out , very punctual at noon on Wednesday January 18, 2012. I was kind of dazed, and still biting down on a towel, as they pushed my baby into my arms and started walking me over to the bed. I laid down with the babies umbilical cord still attached. The cord is shorter than I thought (or I am just tall) but she only reached up to my lower belly and the midwives were trying to get her up to my chest. I was like “hey this is as far as she goes!”
We hung out together on the bed for a few minutes and they wiped off most of the baby goo while the placenta stopped beating. After that, Morgan cut the cord and we were able to move her up to my chest. Within a few more minutes she began hunting and pecking around for my breast for her first taste of colostrum. Her baby instincts were incredible that she knew how to do this. She was using her legs and scootching all around looking for the boob. While she was nursing I felt a few cramps and birthed the placenta. The midwives checked out my vagina and stitched up a few exterior labial tears that occurred in the last couple of pushes when I didn’t heed there advice to slow down and let the skin stretch. Luckily, my perineum was intact even with my rocket pushing. Morgan was next to baby and I the entire time, but I was exhausted and zoned out and asked if someone could get me a hamburger and french fries. One of the birthcenter doulas obliged and I had a burger in my hands in no time! We spent the next 48 hours at the birth center being doted upon and learning from the most caring doulas. Morgan and I had still not selected a name for our girl. Hours were ticking by and we knew we had parents and friends to alert of her arrival. We went back and forth between a few names and middle names and finally landed on Piper Agnes Hay because that seemed to fit her the best with Agnes being a shout out to my late grandmother. Then we started calling and Facebooking the world of her arrival. Although the experience of natural birth for me can only be described as incredibly intense, I am so happy I choose to birth this way at the Alma Midwifery Birth Center. I am forever grateful that my pregnancy, labor and birth experienced zero complications. I know how lucky I am to have the most positive outcome possible and am so pleased that Piper arrived when and how she did.
Your birth story starts in early May 2011. Your Dad and I had our normal appointment with the midwives on Tuesday, May 3. For the last several months at our appointments there had been discussion that they felt like you were not in a head down position. But you were small enough that it was hard to tell and there was still plenty of time for you to turn around. (Ever since I first started feeling your movements, in January, you were never a super active baby. I did not feel you swirling and whirling like the other Mama’s described. We were assured that as long as I could feel you moving consistently, which you were, there was nothing to worry about.) At the previous appointments the midwives would press down in my upper pelvic region and feel your head, or butt, resting there. At this appointment, Kori (your senior midwife) was concerned enough that you were in the breech position and with your birth getting closer, she sent me for your third ultrasound.We made that appointment for Thursday, May 5. Sure enough you were in a ‘frank breech’ position; like a ‘V’ inside of me with your little head on my right side and your feet sticking up on my left side. He also confirmed that your placenta was on top, sort of positioned over your head and feet and that I had a small extra ‘lobe’. Dr. Hoffman tried at that appointment to turn you (version), but you were wedged in pretty good and wouldn’t turn. He even had me upside down on the table so that you could ‘pop’ out of my pelvic area and he could turn you. Stubborn girl- you weren’t doing it. I called the midwives and told them that you were a frank breech and to get direction on what to do now.This is when the roller coaster of your last six and a half weeks in utero began. Let me just tell you here that you were the easiest pregnancy- Mommy never had morning sickness (not once!) or any of the other normal pregnancy complaints. You have always been an easy going girl. ? Now I knew that when I pressed down on my right side under my ribs and you pushed back against my hand, that was your head! I would push down and move my hand and we could see you bop your head back up at me.That Sunday, May 8 was my baby shower. It was a wonderful party at your Aunt Ramona’s house- but I chose to keep the fact that you were breech private. Your Dad and I felt like we had time for you to turn and I didn’t want to have to keep discussing it over and over. Only the family knew at this time.
The midwives had said that we should start with trying acupuncture and I made an appointment for Monday, May 9. We were given moxibustion- an herb- and told to burn it on the outside of my baby toe for 10 days, 20 minutes on each foot. Me and your Dad were pretty hilarious doing this every night! Luckily it wasn’t too rainy and we could do this in the backyard cause it was a pretty smoky process. The acupuncturist said that I should feel you moving around when we did these treatments- that it was stimulating my womb- but I never did feel you moving any extra. I had to keep a close eye on your Dad to make sure he didn’t burn my toes each night! Every night I would lie on a pile of pillows with my hips up in the air and we would alternate rubbing my belly, encouraging you to spin around, talk to you, play music to you and put cold things on my belly- all in trying to get you to turn.The next step was to go to the chiropractor- which we did after the 10 days of the moxibustion. My first chiro appt. was Thu. May 19. I went to the chiro two times a week for about three weeks. Dr. Jenny told me at the last appointment that she had only had one other baby that didn’t turn with the same treatments I was having. She felt that since we were not getting any results, there must be a reason for you to be in that position and that she didn’t think any further treatments were going to change anything. I appreciated her honesty. We were seeing the midwives weekly and I was talking with them every few days to get more suggestions on things to try. We continued doing the nightly upside down exercises.The week of May 23, Kori met us at Dr. Hoffman’s office to see if they could turn you together. We spent over an hour with me upside down on the exam table with my legs thrown over the upright part of the table. They just kept pouring Weleda oil on my belly and changing positions and trying to push and pull you out of my pelvic area. You would not budge, they would get you popped out a little bit and then you would slip right back in. After almost 90 minutes of this they decided that was enough, as I was getting pretty bruised up and they didn’t think they could turn you after trying for that long. My hopes and dreams of having you naturally at the beautiful Alma birthing center were fast slipping away.It is illegal in Oregon to deliver a breech baby at a birth center- you either have to birth at home or in the hospital. In order to have you at home the midwives would have to call in a more experienced breech birth midwife from another practice and get consent from Laura at Alma because of the liability. I was not prepared to have you at home even if everything was going great so it wasn’t really an option for us to have you at home. That left us with a hospital caesarian section birth. I was devastated. Kori knew that OHSU was starting a new program of allowing breech births vaginally.
I made an appointment to meet with that Dr. and also with a midwife at Legacy Emmanuel for Friday, May 27.That morning your Dad and I went to the Legacy Emmanuel Midwife clinic to meet with them about a hospital c-section birth. We met with a midwife and a Dr. Both were very helpful and able to answer most of our questions. We would be allowed to schedule a day but we needed to do so soon as we were already at 38 weeks and technically you could come at any time. I expressed over and over that if possible I wanted to go into labor so that we knew you were ready to be born. They wouldn’t let me schedule the C-section any later than 42 weeks unless I went to the hospital every day to be monitored. We left the appointment feeling reassured and I was hopeful that if I was going to schedule your birthday that I could choose June 19, so that you could match our birthdays (19), and be born on Father’s Day this year. We were told that Dad could certainly be in the operating room when you were born but that it depended on the surgeon if Kori could also be in the room. So we wouldn’t know that until your birthday. I was also instructed that if I went into labor I was to come to the hospital immediately. I would not be considered an emergency c-section, but I was higher risk because of you being breech, and they wanted me to get there as soon as I could to be monitored and prepared for surgery.From there we went straight up to OHSU and met Tara (our junior midwife) to meet with the Dr. there. We spent all day at OHSU, they were running late that day so we didn’t start the ultrasound until almost 90 minutes after our appointment was scheduled to begin. Then the ultrasound itself, your fifth, took almost two hours, with three different techs taking measurements. By this time it was afternoon and we had not eaten and I had to keep drinking water for the ultrasound and we were all getting a bit cranky. Then we had to wait to see the Dr. after the ultrasound was complete. The Dr. was very nice and explained the whole program, that I would be allowed to labor however I wanted, in the hospital, and as long as there was no distress, birth you vaginally.
Only four other women had participated in this program, three delivering successfully and one needing a c-section. There was a lot of information about the ‘odds’ and what could happen. At every step in this process I expected them to tell us that we, you and I, were not good candidates, that you were too big or small, that my measurements weren’t ideal, all of the factors they use to determine if you can ‘qualify’ to participate in this program. And at every step we were told that we were perfect for the program, no risk factors, etc. We left that early evening after making an appointment for Monday, May 30 (Memorial Day) with the radiology department for an x-ray of my pelvic area as one last qualifier. Wow did we have a lot to think about that weekend! And through all of this we still hoped that you would turn before your birth and all of this stress and worry and planning would not have been needed! Kori was not super confident that you were going to turn because you had been in this position for months at this point, but it was still possible. Breech babies are only 3-4% of all pregnancies, so you were already presenting as a special little baby.Over the weekend we continued with all of our nightly exercises and we did a lot of talking. What I remember the most, and that had the biggest impact on our decision for me, was your Dad looking at me and saying, ‘Vanessa, I feel like part of becoming a parent means that you have to do what is best for your child, not what is best for yourself. I know that it would be best for you to deliver naturally, but what is best for the baby is to be born by c-section.’ He was absolutely right and I had to begin to work through my own sense of loss for not delivering you the way that I had always imagined having my baby; mourning losing that experience and come to terms with the fact that I was going to have a major surgery to bring you into the world and all the fear that is inherent with a surgery.
This process was very difficult for me, but I agreed with your Dad 100% that I needed to do what was best for you, even though I was scared for me.I cancelled the radiologist appointment that Monday morning and on Tuesday called and scheduled your Birth Day, Sunday, June 19, 2011 at 8am.We spent the next few weeks continuing with our now weekly appointments at Alma and continuing to hope that you would turn. I went to the hospital to see where you would be born and to get all the paperwork done early so we wouldn’t have to worry about it if I went into labor. It was very stressful for me to try to plan and be mentally prepared for both a natural, birthing center birth and the exact opposite, a c-section in a hospital. They were both such unknowns, and such different types of unknowns from each other! We were also getting so excited for your arrival and knowing that you could come any time now, but that for sure you would be here by June 19. I was still working every day and worked until Friday, June 17.We spent the day before you were born doing random things.
I was contacted by the hospital that morning and they said they were moving the surgery back by two hours, to 10am, so we didn’t need to be there until 8am (instead of 6am). We took Breezy to Shannon’s house where she would be staying for the first two weeks while we got used to caring for you. The Alma summer picnic was that day but I didn’t want to go because it was still really hard for me to know that I wasn’t going to get to deliver you at the birthing center. I had stopped going to the summer mom’s group as well because it was too hard to know that I was having a completely different experience than all of the other mom’s. I think we went out to dinner and watched a movie that night. I rechecked our bags to make sure we had everything and that we were ready to go in the morning. It was obvious by this time that I would not be experiencing any labor before you were born.On the day you were born, we woke up and went to the hospital. We met Tara there and she was with us as they got me all ready. It took four tries to get an IV in me and they pumped so much saline into me that I was very bloated. They shaved me a little bit where the incision would be, put monitors on to listen to you. The Dr. came in and introduced herself and they did another ultrasound to make sure you hadn’t changed position. Kori was also there and we were told she could join us in surgery. She would be taking pictures and being supportive of both your Dad and I during and right after the surgery. (She had been a L&D nurse midwife and had attended lots of c-sections so was very comfortable and familiar with the surgery- this was very reassuring and comforting to me.) Then they came in and asked if I was ready, and they wheeled me into the operating room. This was the only time that I had to be alone and I was very scared. The operating room was very cold and I was naked. There were people there I didn’t know who were prepping everything. They had me sit up to give me the spinal block and then they said James and Kori could come in. I remember going numb, from my nipples down to my toes. I think it took about 15 minutes for me to go completely numb. I remember them asking me if I could feel them scraping something across my stomach, and I could feel the pressure of it, but not any pain. It was very strange. I remember I started to cry because I was scared, and then Dad started crying too and telling me that it would be OK, that you would be here very soon and that everything was going to be just fine. They started the surgery pretty soon after that, I think around 11:20.Then the Dr. said that they were getting close and that I would feel even more pressure.
They said ‘stand up Dad, your baby is here.’ We had asked them to not say if you were a boy or a girl, we wanted Dad to look and then tell me. I remember hearing you cry, I think before he even said if you were a boy or a girl, and I was so happy to hear that. Most c-section babies do not cry right away so I was prepared to not hear you cry- when you did I was so surprised and excited! Then Dad said, ‘it’s a Zoe!!’ And I knew you were my girl, just like I had hoped for. They took you over to the side but very soon they gave you to Dad and he brought you over to me so that I could see you. Kori was taking pictures and we were crying and so happy to meet you finally. I was so thrilled that you were able to be with us right away, I reached up to touch you and set off a bunch of the monitors on myself, funny, cause I just wanted to touch you and hold you, but I couldn’t yet. Dad brought you back so they could weigh and measure you and do your Apgar test (a nine! Very high for a newborn c-section baby) I was trying to watch all of this but I couldn’t see everything. Kori was with me while Dad was with you. You were 6lbs 15 ozs and 19” long, such a petite little baby! You were incredibly alert and awake. You also had very wrinkled up skin, especially on your hands and feet. Kori said this was normal for a baby that has been in utero longer than average. That actually made me feel good- to know that you were kept growing and safe inside of me till it was just the right time for you to be born! As soon as they were able to they had Dad put you in his shirt, up against his chest so that you could feel his skin and hear his heartbeat. You stayed like that with him until they were finished with the surgery on me and wheeled me back into our room. I do remember that the end of the surgery was tougher than before you were born, it took almost an hour and I got nauseous while they were finishing up.
I never got to see your placenta, nor did Kori, before it went to be made into placenta pills for me. But Kelly (who made the pills) said that it was a pretty large placenta and did have the extra lobe like Dr. Hoffman had said. Maybe this was the reason you couldn’t turn? Because it was taking up so much room that you weren’t able to flip back around and it kept you from moving as much as most babies do. We will never know for sure, but this is a good theory!
Then we were wheeled into our room and Kori made sure to start getting you to breastfeed immediately. It had already been more than an hour since you were born and I remember being exhausted. I said to Kori I couldn’t understand why I was so tired when I hadn’t done anything and she said that I just had major surgery and my body was very tired. You latched on right away and I was so happy that we weren’t having any c-section difficulties at all. Your Grampa Skip was there taking lots of pictures and we spent the next few hours just recovering and holding you. Kori stayed for a few hours and Tara stayed until we were settled into our new room in the nursery section.
You stayed with us in our room the whole time at the hospital, except for a short lunch the day we checked out. We constantly held you and you slept in bed with us, even though we were supposed to put you in the bassinet when we slept. Dad gave you your first bath the next night, with a nurse helping him. We got your footprints and filled out paperwork to get your birth certificate and Social Security Number. You had lots of our families come to meet you, all your Grandparents and Aunts. We were supposed to stay in the hospital for three days but you were doing so well and I was feeling so good that we asked if we could leave on our second day. The Dr. approved it so we went home on Tuesday, you were just over 48 hours old. Dad was very nervous to drive you home. I remember getting home and being so happy that you were with us. You were such a sweet, alert, interested baby from the very beginning.
I love you so much Zoe Rowan. Thank you for choosing to be my baby girl.
Love always, your Mom