Birth Stories

The Definition Of Perfection: A Baby's Birth Goes According To Plan

 Courtesy of Emily Grace Whebbe

Courtesy of Emily Grace Whebbe

In recounting our birth story, I finally fully understand the definition of a word I have used so many times: perfection.

Although I write this after a generous dose of oxytocin from breastfeeding, I will try not to embellish beyond belief. Perfection is a word and concept I rarely use or believed in, unsure of it's even existence. However, after going through the experience of childbirth and now being able to be a part of this incredible baby's life, I realize that what happened more than a week ago was as close to perfection as I could experience. Let's start at 3:00 a.m., Thursday, August 4th.

Read more about baby Revira on npr.org

Harlow Kristianna's Birth Story - "The Day You Were Born"

 Introducing Baby Harlow Kristianna

Introducing Baby Harlow Kristianna

It was like any other Thursday night. We were still a week away from our due date and I was positive you were going to arrive fashionably late... just like your mama! Your daddy was out of state for a work meeting in Iowa as I had no contractions (even Braxton Hicks) by this time and we were positive your debut was still at least a week out. 

I was itching to put the final touches on your nursery and there was one special item (an elephant mobile) that I had been pining after for weeks but had to go to Woodbury to pick it up in the store. I decided that tonight was the night to complete your “nest.” I packed Scout (our wiener dog) into the car and we made a girls’ road trip over to Buy Buy Baby in Woodbury. On the way there, your BG (Daddy’s mom) called me to check and see how I was doing since Daddy was out of town. She seemed quite concerned that I was out driving by myself “all the way to Woodbury.” I explained that I felt fine and that it was only Woodbury, not Albert Lea or Duluth and that she needn’t worry. She made me promise to text her when Scout and I were safe at home.

I found the mobile within a few minutes of the store closing and got back in the car to head home to Edina. Then your Papa Joe called me (Mama’s dad) and also was curious to know if I had felt any “stirrings” of Tiny T (what we called you since we didn’t know if you were a boy or girl). Again, I tried to assure him that I was positive you would be coming AFTER your due date and that with your Daddy out of town, I was sure it wouldn’t be happening in the next 24 hours. Little did I know what the next 24 hours would hold...

I returned home and decided that I would put the mobile up myself and take that final nursery picture to post on Facebook, indicating to the world, but mostly myself, that we were officially “ready” for you to arrive! I talked with your Daddy on the phone for a few minutes before bed and went to sleep.

Then it happened. At about 12:15 a.m., I felt my first contraction. It was no “fake” contraction or false labor, either. I had never felt a contraction before and it wasn’t painful or even uncomfortable at this time... just “present.” I KNEW this was the beginning of your journey into the world and our lives. I tried to get back to sleep, as this is what everyone had advised me to do when I felt like labor was beginning. And I did sleep. Until about 1 am, when the next contraction came.

I decided to get up and go to the bathroom and then call your Daddy. I woke him between 1:30 and 2 a.m. and told him that labor had started, but that I was fine and wasn’t feeling like things were progressing at a rate where he needed to be alarmed or even change his plans. He was planning to be home by 4:00 p.m. later that day (Friday) anyway. I had heard that many first-time moms have long labors, and I was preparing myself for a long labor, possibly even several days. Again, I went back to sleep.

Again, I awoke to another contraction, this time around 2:25 a.m. Could it be that the contractions were picking up speed? I decided to stay awake and just time/monitor the gaps between contractions to be more certain. As it turned out, contractions had indeed picked up in pace and were between 20-25 minutes apart. I tried my best to remain calm and decided to call your Daddy again just to give him an update. When we spoke, he seemed a bit more concerned and urged me to at least call the midwife pager and alert them of my status. He wanted me to call him back after I had spoken to a midwife, so I agreed to do that. It must’ve been about 4 in the morning when I received a call back from the midwife, Katrina, who asked me some questions about how I was feeling, the contraction rate and intensity, and also about your Daddy’s ETA. I remember her saying, “Well, if it were me and my husband were that far away, I would call him and tell him to start heading home right away. He probably won’t be able to eat, sleep or even focus on work much if he knows his wife is in labor!” She also encouraged me to call back should things change or pick up in pace in the next few hours. 

I called your Daddy (again!) and told him that he should probably cancel his meetings and start heading back to Minnesota, since he had about a 6 hour drive ahead of him. Contractions were now between 15-20 minutes apart. He urged me to call Amber, our doula, to see if she could come to our house and be with me until he could get home. He said he would get on the road as soon as he could. I needed to get up and take Scout outside for her morning potty break.

We ventured down the nine flights in our building’s elevator and slowly made our way to the back door. We walked around in the grass patch for a few minutes and she took care of her business. We headed back inside because after morning outings, always comes breakfast! When we got back in the apartment, I fed her and as I bent over to put the food in her bowl, I noticed that the contractions were now coming more quickly. I timed the gaps between them for a few minutes and I was now at 5-6 minutes apart! This couldn’t be happening... your Daddy was still hours away!

I called him to get an update on when he’d left and informed him that things had really sped up (I think because of the activity of taking Scout out). At this point, I wouldn’t say that I was in a panic; but I was definitely pretty anxious about the possibility that you could arrive and your father might miss your birth! I asked him if we could pray together over the phone as I just didn’t know what else to do. We asked God for peace in labor and that, if it was His will, things could slow down until your Daddy got home. I felt a sense of relief after the prayer in that we’d placed the situation in God’s hands. I also told your Daddy that Amber was on her way and at least I’d have someone (someone very knowledgeable and encouraging) by my side until he got back. 

Amber arrived shortly after my conversation with Daddy and I updated her on where things were at. I had started writing down the times of my contractions on a piece of scratch paper so we could look for patterns and truly capture how long I’d been in labor. She took over charting the times and also provided me with some comfort during my contractions by applying pressure to my lower back, which was where I was starting to feel most of my labor pains. We reviewed the gaps between contractions and I was slowing down... 12-14 minutes between them again! God had heard and answered our prayer! I feel quite sure that He also orchestrated us contracting Amber as a doula (another story for another time) so that she could be there for me/us during these crucial moments of labor. She did a fantastic job of distracting me, chatting with me and alleviating any remaining traces of anxiety I had about your Daddy still not being home.

Amber helped me with water and snacks throughout the next several hours, making sure I kept my fluids and energy levels up. With each contraction getting stronger and more intense, she helped me find positions and comfort measures to endure each “wave.” We labored on the floor/hands-and-knees, on the couch/on my side, and on the yoga ball. I continued to struggle with the back labor and felt that being on my hands and knees in a modified downward dog position provided the most relief. 

Finally, at about 2:45, your Daddy walked through the door! I can honestly say, next to the day he showed up for our wedding, that was probably the happiest I’ve ever been to see him!!! We all decided to eat a good hearty lunch together in the event that things should speed up again. And that’s exactly what happened. In just the few short minutes following your Daddy’s arrival, the contractions began to pick up in pace and intensity again. (It’s pretty amazing to reflect on the mind/body connection and how I witnessed this in real time during your birth!) We were back down to about 6 minutes again and after that point, I have to admit, things got a little blurry for me. I remember eating some of my salad and burrito. I also recall Amber suggesting that maybe I should move to the bathtub for some extra relief for my back pain. A bath was drawn and I remember there being candles and very dim lighting, which was very calming. I don’t really know how long I was in the tub for, but Amber sat right beside me coaching and praising me through each contraction. I also remember asking if we could bring the ball into the tub and just turn on the shower and let the stream of water beat down on my lower back as I hugged the ball. My request was granted and I got through the next however many contractions in this manor. 

Other than that, I can reflect on the experience of going very deeply into myself and blocking out much of whatever else was happening around me. I do know I was repeating the lyrics of U2’s “Every Breaking Wave” over and over in my mind, both as a focus point AND as a distraction. I was moaning and breathing very deeply with each contraction and I also found myself calling on God’s strength and the strength of my own mother (your Grandma Kristie), who passed away several years before you were born. I know she was present there with me the entire time, cheering me on and nudging me closer to meeting YOU! At some point, Amber told me I should get out of the tub and try to go to the bathroom. I was able to get out of the tub and do this, and I’m not sure, but she felt that this was when my water broke as she heard a big “sploosh” after I had gone. I also know that this was when I started to push little pushes, even though I hadn’t been told to do so. I just felt that that’s what my body wanted me to do. I can vaguely remember speaking with Rachel, the midwife on-call, but I don’t really recall the details of our conversation. After this, Daddy and Amber made it pretty clear that we needed to get to the birth center as soon as we could. I was still in a robe after my bath, with hair wet and no clothes on. As they struggled to help me get dressed between contractions, which now must’ve been coming between 2-3 minutes apart, we packed up the rest of our birth supplies and made our way down the hallway to the elevator.

The walk to the elevator to the underground garage seemed like the longest trek of my life and we had to have been stopping every ten-fifteen feet or so for me to lean against the wall in an effort to get through the next contraction. We finally made it to the car and I remember dreading getting in as I knew the ride over there was not going to be an easy one. We were on our way in a matter of minutes, with Amber following us in her car. 

Again, I was drawn inward and for most of the ride to the birth center, all I could do was focus on the digital clock in our dashboard and remind myself that each contraction was only one minute, 60 seconds of discomfort, but 60 seconds closer to seeing your face. Each pothole, each bump on the road or brick-paved street in historic St. Paul felt like a knife being twisted in my lower back. I hoped that when I arrived at the birth center, I could ask for those sterile water injections the midwives had talked about in our prenatal appointments. I was desperate for some relief. I should also add that I was continuing to push at the conclusion of each contraction at this point... it just felt like the right thing to 

When we arrived at the birth center and made our way inside to the birthing suite, the large birth tub/bath had already been drawn, and there was dim lighting and some LED candles burning... I think. I remember marching into the room and asking Rachel, “Ok, what now? Just tell me what to do- I need a plan.” I inquired about the water injections and some comfort for the back labor, to which she replied, “Let’s get you on the bed and see how far you’re dilated and we’ll go from there.”

That’s all I needed to hear, as I quickly made my way to the bed as if to say, “Ok-
let’s DO this!” She examined my cervix and stated, “Mara, the quickest solution to eliminating your back pain is just to have your baby. You are fully dilated to a 10 [cm], so let’s just get you in the tub!” That was probably the fastest I’d moved the whole labor, practically tearing off my clothes to get into the water. 

The back pain was so intense at this point, but it did serve as my motivation to push and ride the wave of each contraction. My whole birthing team (Rachel, Brittany the RN, Amber and Daddy) was so supportive and encouraging. I can still hear their voices: “Mara, you’re SO strong! You can do this! You’re almost there!” Rachel did a great job of telling me when to push and when to rest/slow down; Amber was reminding me to “bear down” and with each push, my low moans and breathing got louder and louder. I was switching positions too, from hands and knees to reclining back. Rachel would use her mirror and flashlight in the water to check the progress and also checking your heart rate from time to time.

At some point, I moved into the recline position and knew I would stay there until you came out. It wasn’t very many more contractions and pushes before you crowned and your little head was ready to pop out. We were so close to meeting you!! I pushed through another couple of contractions and the strongest burning sensation I’d ever felt down there (now I know why they call it the Ring of Fire!). Finally, your head came out and Rachel said I probably only needed to push once or twice more before your shoulders and the rest of you emerged. Those last few pushes and contractions were a blur, as I was so focused on finally meeting our son or daughter! 

Your Daddy helped to catch you underwater when you were fully born at 8:26 p.m. on Friday, March 4th. Daddy and Rachel placed you on my chest and I immediately started crying tears of joy when I looked into your bright eyes. I felt the warmth of your body against my heart and I knew I was instantly addicted to you. I had loved you all along, before you were conceived and during pregnancy, but now seeing you, my love for you had grown deeper and our connection had become stronger. You were so calm when you came out, not even crying as you took your first few breaths of this new world around you. We still didn’t know if you were a boy or a girl, until Rachel suggested I hold you up to get a glimpse. I lifted you off my chest and had to move your umbilical cord out of the way before we could see that you were our little girl, our angelic Harlow Kristianna, named after your Grandma Kristie Ann. It was such a joy to finally meet you!

More Birth Photos

The birth of baby Abel

Abel’s birth began with a weird itching that I developed around 39 weeks.  Since it was the middle of winter, at first I thought it might just be dry skin.  But then I started to realize that the itching was focused on my palms and the bottoms of my feet.  I would scratch and scratch and scratch and it would feel so good, but there was a dull itch pretty much all of the time. 

At my next midwife appointment I told Monica about the itching.  She told me that my body might be having trouble processing bile and that I should try to avoid fatty foods.  So I did just that.  But then I noticed that the itching was getting worse, especially at night.  A few times during the night it was so bad that it was waking me up.  I remember waking up itching my calves like crazy and thinking that my hairy legs were driving me nuts.  Only in the morning did I put two and two together.

So I decided that I should call in to the midwife and let them know that my itching had gotten worse.  Now, this is something that I wouldn’t normally do.  I normally ignore any health problem as long as possible.  Even as I was calling I was telling myself how silly I was being. “This is no big deal,” I was saying.  “It really hasn’t gotten worse”.  But I listened to my gut and called in anyway (now I feel that was a prompting from God) and was very surprised by the concerned reaction by the nurse on call.  She told me that she would talk to one of the midwives and have them give me a call back.

Later that day I heard back from Amy, the owner of our birth center.  I was surprised that she was the one calling me back.  She hadn’t done any of my prenatals for this pregnancy, so the fact that she was calling made me feel like we were in a potentially serious situation. She explained that she wanted Zach and I to come in that afternoon (this was Wednesday, January 7th and I was due on the 15th) to have my blood drawn in order to figure out what was going on.  I felt validated that I had called in, but also concerned.

When we came in for the blood draw Amy met with us.  She explained that my itchiness was most likely due to a complication called cholestasis where bile isn’t processed correctly in the gallbladder and liver.  The excess bile builds up under the skin and causes the itchiness.  Cholestasis can be dangerous, especially early on in pregnancy because it causes a lot of stress on the mother and the only way to cure it is to deliver the baby. 

After Amy finished explaining, she told us that they would do the blood draw and call me back the next day with the results.  She felt that because I was not acting like the itching was that intense, my levels would probably be low and we could continue my pregnancy as normal.  If they were elevated though we would have to begin a natural induction, which I had gone through with Merritt because he was overdue and was something I did not at all desire to repeat.

The next day, Thursday January 8th, I went to work as normal.  I called in about noon when I hadn’t heard back from the midwives.  The receptionist took a message and told me they would call me back as soon as they had results.  On my drive home I talked with Amy about the results that had come back.  She began to tell me that she was very surprised when my blood work came back because my levels in fact were extremely elevated.  She said that she wanted Zach and I to come to the birth center the next morning with our things because we might me staying awhile.  “Staying?!?” I asked in total shock.  “What do you mean staying?”

I was so surprised and having a really hard time processing what was going on as I was driving.  I pulled into our driveway and Zach was right in front of me going inside with Merritt.  He was mouthing to me to pull into the correct side of the driveway and I was mouthing to him that Amy was on the phone.  Amy explained that because my levels were so elevated she didn’t want me to be pregnant much longer.  We would begin a natural induction the next day in order to make the baby come a little early and take the stress off my body.

I came inside and explained the basics of what was going on to Zach.  We called Amy back and asked a million questions.  Then we proceeded to run around the house, calling family, packing, and all-in-all freaking out.  Since I was thirty-nine weeks we had most everything put together, but suddenly knowing that we would be possibly having the baby the next day made everything much more urgent.  Zach also was not AT ALL prepared to leave work so he had a lot to prep for his sub. We got everything ready in a few hours and then tried to relax for the rest of the night.

The next day we took Mer to day care (our friend Anjela’s) and went into Health Foundations.  When we got there Amy explained that we would first try the Foley catheter to dilate me and hopefully kick start my labor.  I had the catheter inserted with Merritt since he was overdue, so I wasn’t worried.  I just didn’t want to have to drink castor oil.  I was prepared to do almost anything if it meant that I could avoid that.  I remembered from Merritt that having the catheter inserted was slightly painful.  With Abel though, it was really no big deal.  I think I just wasn’t allowing myself to feel sorry for myself and again I was willing to do anything to not have to drink castor oil.

After having the catheter inserted, we had to let it do its thing.  Amy assigned us to walk, and then eat and rest.  She told us to come back to the clinic and check in with her at 3:00pm. We went to Target and did laps around the store since it was too icy to walk outside.  Then we both allowed ourselves to buy whatever we wanted at Target for lunch in order to make the day feel more like a mini-staycation inside of anxious waiting for baby time.  We bought fried chicken, cob salad, asiago cheese rolls and chocolate chip cookies.  We came home and ate in bed and then took a nap together.

We went in at 3:00pm and met with Amy but nothing had really happened.  She told us to come back in the next morning and to call her if the catheter fell out.  By the time that we left the clinic our family had all arrived from Iowa for the birth.  We decided to walk some more and for a change of scenery we went to the Roseville mall.  We met Dick and Kim there and they played with Merritt in the indoor play area while we walked laps. 

Afterwards we went back to our house and ate dinner with my Mom and Dad and my sister Sarah (my sister Natalie was coming up the next morning).  Just as people were starting to leave after dinner, the catheter fell out.  I was excited that I was more dilated, but the same thing had happened with Merritt and hadn’t kick started my labor.  We called Amy and told her what had happened.  She told us to call back if I went into labor during the night or come back in at 9:00am the next morning.  That night Mer went to the hotel with our families, while we tried to relax and stay calm.

The next morning came and I still had no contractions.  We went in to meet with Amy and soon both my sisters were there.  Amy decided that since I was a second time mom, she felt comfortable breaking my water.  I was excited that this was the next step, because I was sure she was going to tell me that we would have to start castor oil.  Amy felt confident that breaking my water would get my labor started.

So I laid down on the bed and Amy attempted to break my water, but had a lot of trouble doing so.  Apparently when you are already in labor breaking your water is easy because with each contraction your water bag bulges out making it very simple to pop.  When you aren’t in labor however, it can actually be really difficult because the bag is is flat against the baby’s head and is akin to hooking a thin film of saran wrap with a crochet hook. 

After a few attempts though, Amy thought that she had popped it but wasn’t sure.  She asked us to go into the shower and do squats for the next thirty minutes or so to put pressure on my water bag and hopefully help it pop.  So, huge and pregnant, I squatted for as long as I could as deeply as I could.  I was so motivated to break my water because, again, I was just trying to avoid castor oil.

After finishing the squats, Amy concluded that my water still hadn’t broken and asked if I wanted to try it again.  I was all for it.  She tried a few more times and then had Rachel (another midwife) try because she has longer fingers.  They both were trying really hard and it was a little painful, but I was totally willing to go for it.  They kept asking if I was okay and I kept giving them a thumbs up because I was still fighting my cough and while I was lying on my back it took everything that I had not going into a coughing fit.  Zach also told them a few times “She’s okay.  She’s tough and she really just doesn’t want to have to do castor oil.”

Still, even with both of them trying, they couldn’t break my water.  Amy commented that I had dilayed to at least five centimeters while trying, but I was still really disheartened and sort of painicky.  I just wanted it to work so badly so I wouldn’t have to do castor oil.  I suggested that maybe we could try moving upstairs and using stirrups to make it easier for them.  Although they didn’t think that the stirrups would have any effect, they thought that maybe being on the hard surface of the exam table would be easier than the bed.  They decided that as long as I was game, they would try one last time.

We went upstairs and Rachel tried to break my water.  She commented that she was very competitive and it was really bothering her that they weren’t getting it. She tried and tried and tried and then Amy tried again and then all of the sudden “Woosh!”.  I could hear and feel the amniotic fluid rush out of me and onto the floor.  I was so relieved.  I saw Amy and Zach look down at the floor with a kind of surprised look on their faces.  I asked them, “Is it a lot?”  Zach replied, “It’s all over the floor and Amy’s pants.” We laughed, and of course Amy and Rachel acted like it was a complete non-issue and covered up the fluid so I wouldn’t see it.

We went back downstairs and I announced to Sarah and Natalie (who had come to the birth center) that they had broken my water.  Then we waited for awhile for contractions to come.  I was feeling restless and asked Amy if walking might help move things along.  We went back to Target for more laps, this time with Sarah, Natalie and both of our moms in tow.   Unlike the day before, the whole scene at Target was crazy.  It was the middle of the day on a Saturday and there were tons of people, samples being passed out, and the Target mascot, Bullseye was walking around.  All the while we were doing laps and I was leaking amniotic fluid.  It was surreal and hysterical.  Since we all couldn’t possibly stay together, Zach and I would walk laps and then pick up Sarah, Natalie or Kim for awhile and then keep walking (my Mom was too busy shopping to do laps).  We even ran into someone that we knew from church and Sarah forced me to take my picture with Bullseye!

After Target we headed home again to rest and eat.  Amy had told us to come back into Health Foundations at 4:00pm if nothing had happened yet.  We were really hoping that I would have some contractions before then but alas, nothing.  My water was broken and I was five centimeter dilated but yet still no contractions.  We went in to meet with Amy and she explained the inevitable next step, castor oil. 

On the way back to the house I let myself feel sorry for myself for the first time and broke down crying.  I just wanted to have the baby without having to start off with chugging that nasty oil and having diarrhea, but I guess that was just not going to happen.  When we got back to the house I tried to collect myself because Zach’s parents and my dad were there watching Merritt.  I walked past them really quickly and went upstairs to eat.  Before taking the castor oil you are supposed to eat a big meal so that you aren’t completely depleted of energy and nutrients during labor.  We ate some really yummy pizza, but I didn’t enjoy it as much because I knew that I’d be having castor oil for dessert. 

Afterwards I went into the bathroom and chugged the castor oil, which is like drinking Vaseline.  It coats your mouth and lips and instantly makes you feel sick to your stomach (it’s making me feel sick to mine thinking about it right now) even though the diarrhea that it causes takes longer to start.  During this time Zach had told our family to all leave and head back to their hotel (you don’t really want to have diarrhea in front of a crowd).  I could hear my sisters leaving and I got really sad.  I so wanted to be with them but instead I was in bed with the beginnings of diarrhea.  I was also pregnant and emotional and wishing we could have more time together.

Soon I was pretty miserable but still not having contractions.  You take the castor oil and the homeopathic tinctures in two rounds.  Meaning you take the first round and then every fifteen minutes you either take a tincture or a homeopathic and that goes on for about two hours.  Afterwards you are directed to call the midwives.  When we called Amy to tell her we had finished the first round she told us we could go ahead and start the second (which is the whole process repeated again) as soon as we were ready.  She also said that we could wait a little bit if we want to though and have a snack. 

Well, I was definitely not ready.  With Merritt I had just chugged my second round of castor oil and then about fifteen minutes later I was in labor.  I did not want that to be the case again.  Zach gently pushed me to take the second round right away and I flatly refused.  He obliged, but set a time to start in fifteen minutes.  I know he was just trying to support me to do something that I didn’t want to but had to do, but still I was thinking, “No I’m not. Yeah, it’s easy for you to say fifteen minutes.  You don’t have to take the stuff.”  I just was hoping against hope that I would have a contraction and I wouldn’t have to do the second round.  And it’s not just about the taste (which is horrible), it’s about the fact that you feel so sick at the time so the thought of actively drinking something that you know will just make you more sick is just appalling.  So when fifteen minutes came and Zach said, “Okay, let’s go.”  I said, “No, just five more minutes,” in a super pathetic voice and he relented.  And then…

Ah, the first contraction!  It’s was so awesome!  I was so freaking proud of myself!  “I knew it! I knew!” I kept saying in my head.  “I knew that if I just waited long enough I would have a contraction and I wouldn’t have to take the castor oil again!”  Then there was another contraction and I told Zach I was sure these were contractions and that he should start timing them.  It was 8:30pm.  He called Amy to tell her that my labor had started.  She said to call her back when the contractions became more intense. I had one or two more contractions in the bed and then I had to stand up and lean against the wall in our bedroom as they were getting more painful. 

After the next contraction, I moved to the toilet and Zach called Amy again.  She made a plan to meet us at the birth center at 9:30pm.  Zach told me “Let’s do five more contractions here and then start to get ready to go.”  I agreed but didn’t think that I could wait.  The contractions were almost instantly really intense.  I had one more contraction and said, “No, we need to go now”.  Zach tried to stay with me and I ordered him to get things ready so we could leave more quickly.  I made it down to our entryway before I had another contraction against the wall. Zach was scurrying around putting Sitka (our Huskey) in his kennel and putting the chairs up on the couches so that Juneau (our Golden Retriever/Huskey mix) wouldn’t get up on them while we were gone.  Even in labor I made sure to tell him to do that!

Zach helped me put on my boots and I made it until the car before I had another contraction.  Zach went to comfort me but I told him to start the car.  I just wanted to get to the birth center.  Reflecting on it now, I think my body was telling me I needed to get to the birth center quickly.  I remember the contraction that I had against the car so clearly.  I was so dark, quiet and cold outside.  I had started moaning to help me relax through the pain and I remember wondering if any of our neighbors could hear me. I was surreal and beautiful and odd.

We got in the car and I urged Zach to drive faster, although he was trying to drive carefully so the ride wouldn’t be too bumpy.  I had a couple more contractions in the car which were very painful.  I hate being in the car while in labor because you can’t lean against anything to mitigate the pain.  I really feel for any women who have to drive long distances while in labor.

We arrived at the birth center, I walked in and immediately read the clock, 9:15pm. 

I labored on the toilet for a few contractions.  I was already naked, on the toilet backwards, moaning loudly.  Amy and Sophie immediately started to fill the tub.  My contractions were very intense.  I started thinking, “Either I’m really close to having the baby or I’m not and I need to get on top of these,” because they were overwhelming and very painful. 

During this time all the women in our family arrived for the birth.  My sister Natalie, who had been my de facto doula during Mer’s birth, immediately came back and checked on me.  I later learned that she then went back to our moms and Sarah andreported that I was very close which she knew from listening to how I was breathing.

The pain was really bad then and I was trying to figure out some way that I could get on top of it.  I asked if I could get in the shower because I remembered that feeling so good during Merritt’s birth.  Amy said of course but suggested that I could get into the tub instead.  I knew that they usually wait to let you get into the tub until you’re farther along in your labor. So when she said I could get in that’s when I really started to let myself believe what I had known from about my fifth contraction, this labor was moving REALLY FAST and I was already towards the end. 

In the tub I felt like I was in a movie.  I was so aware and I was talking a lot.  With Merritt I had so much more time to get in the zone and I felt like I was in a dream, but this time I could see and process everything and everyone.  I felt a little silly like I needed to perform and have the baby quickly because my family was all watching and wouldn’t that just be so convenient for them.  As soon as I had these thoughts though I tried to push them out of my mind and focus on what I was doing.

Pretty soon I told Amy that I felt like I was going to poop, or maybe I needed to push.  I knew that I needed to push, but I just always doubt myself in order to not get my hopes up.  Amy told me that it was fine if I pooped and assured me that it wouldn’t hurt the baby to poop in the water (which I was nervous about) but also said that she would check me to see if I was ready to push.  She did and confirmed that I was.

So I started pushing.  I had a lot of emotions flowing through me with all the hormones.  At one moment in between contractions I broke into an intense looking cry.  I could immediately see that my family was worried so I started saying, “I’m happy.  I’m happy” and Zach repeated what I was saying loudly.  Then I tried to explain that I was thinking about how much I loved Merritt and that I was about to have another baby and that I would feel that same way about him or her.  I thought I was making perfect sense but when Natalie repeated back what she thought I was saying, it wasn’t what I had intended.  I got really frustrated because to me I was speaking completely normally.  Zach understood what I was trying to say and translated for me.  Later he told me that I wasn’t making much sense at all.

Pushing went extremely quickly and in about five pushes Abel was out.  It was 9:56pm and I had been in labor for only about an hour and a half!  Zach caught him and I held him in my arms.  I announced to everyone that he was a boy and his name was Abel.  Then I specially addressed my mother-in-law, Kim, when I announced his middle name, Matthew, because that is Zach’s brother’s name.

Abel was bluish when he was born and needed to be given oxygen through a hand pump.  It made the first few moments of his life a little more worrisome.  Amy was giving him the oxygen and I told her, “Amy, is he okay?  I really can’t enjoy him until you tell me he’s okay.”  She told me that he would be fine and in a few minutes his coloring was normal.

I stepped out of the tub and went to the bed to deliver the placenta which came out pretty easily.  I was shaking really badly which I didn’t enjoy, because it made me look and feel weak.  My family thought that I was cold, which I did feel cold but the real reason that I was shaking was because of adrenaline. My body had produced adrenaline to help me through the birth, but because of my extremely short labor I ended up not using it.  The shaking continued for a long time.

I had a small tear that didn’t need to be sewn up which I was happy about.  Amy thought that the tear was probably caused by Abel’s hand that was curled up by his head when he came out.  I nursed Abel right away and he was a very good nurser right from the beginning.  Nursing him was a good distraction because then I began to bleed. 

At first I couldn’t really feel that I was bleeding, but then every time that Amy pushed on my uterus to make it clamp down I could feel a gush of blood coming out of me.  Then I started to get interventions.  Amy gave me a shot of pitocin in my leg and then asked me to slowly chew a chalky pill.  I was aware of the procedure for interventions at the birth center, so I said aloud, “This is because I’m bleeding too much.”  She then gave me an IV with fluids and even more pitocin.  The mood in the room began to change a little bit.  Amy and Sophie stayed calm but Amy’s voice tone changed.  Instead of asking Sophie to do things she began to tell her.  Not rudely, just in a matter of fact way.

I began feel really sleepy and closing my eyes a lot.  I could see that my family was worried and I was trying to act normal so to not scare them, but I was just having such a hard time keeping my eyes open.  I learned later that at one point I actually started to fall asleep on Zach and Amy and Sophie had to tell me to stay awake.  After a few minutes, my bleeding started to calm down.  Abel was happy and healthy and started to get passed around to my family. 

The next couple hours pasted quickly.  Amy left and I gave her a big hug.  I was so grateful that she had been with us throughout the entire process.  Katrina, another midwife, took over.  Abel was weighed and measured.  Katrina sat with us and debriefed about the labor and delivery and discussed all of our questions while I ate some Jimmy John’s.  I was grateful that she took the time to talk through what had just happened because I know many women don’t have anyone explain the intricacies of their labor to them.

As we went home it was so oddly similar to having Merritt.  So cold and the middle of the night.  We came back to the house with my Mom and tried to get ready for bed as quickly as possible because we were so exhausted.  I remember as I laid down I could hear Zach, who had fallen asleep almost instantly, snoring loudly.  I could also hear Abel, who is a very loud, snorty sleeper making noise.  With my boys snoozing around me I felt exhausted, sleepy and at peace.

Postpartum:

My postpartum time with Abel began really similarly to Merritt.  My mother-in-law Kim stayed with us and we enjoyed time as a family.  I bonded with Abel really well and spent lots of time with him one on one during the first week. 

Abel overall was a normal little baby, but because Merritt had been so incredibly calm we worried about him when he had small issues (that didn’t feel small at the time).  He had some really difficult nights during his first couple of weeks, where he would be extremely unhappy and inconsolable.  They absolutely panicked us.  Even during just those few nights we felt extremely helpless and like he would never be happy.

Also the day after Abel was born, Merritt came down with the flu and was the sickest that he had probably been in his whole little life.  He actually threw up in Zach’s hat while on a trip to Target (Zach still wears the hat).  It was really difficult because we had to keep Merritt away from Abel and because Abel was more or less attached to me, away from me as well.  Pretty much it became that Zach and Kim cared for Merritt downstairs while I cared for Abel upstairs.  I missed Merritt and felt really scared that he would get Abel sick.

At the same time I was still recovering from the cough I had come down with around Christmas as well as the birth.  I was trying to take care of myself, but also having a hard time parenting since I wasn’t yet able to wear Abel (which he really loved) or pick up Merritt.  I also was having some extreme headaches and baby brain or cloudiness.  I would have hours at a time where I felt disconnected and had an extremely difficult time focusing.

All of these things kind of came to a head on week three when Zach went back to work (although we didn’t realize it until afterwards).  I got through the first two days after he went back okay but I was dying by the time that he got home and overall just not feeling well (very exhausted and sometimes faint).  Then on the third day, I woke up and began to feel very faint in the shower.  By the time that Merritt had woken up I was concerned that I might pass out. At the same time Abel had been pretty fussy over the previous couple of days and was needing almost constant soothing, but I worried about wearing him because I was still recovering.  I was completely overwhelmed and felt like I couldn’t make a single clearheaded decision. I started bawling and then I decided that I just wasn’t up to it yet.  I called Zach and told him I needed him home for a few more days.

Zach was extremely worried about me (and with good reason). He left school that day and took off the rest of the week to stay home with me.  I felt like I was sick and Abel was sick, but Zach could see that the biggest problem wasn’t either my physical health or Abel’s, it was my mental well-being. I went into the midwives and then ran blood work on me. I almost fainted in their office during the blood draw; that is how sick I felt.  I thought for sure that my iron levels were insanely low from the bleeding I had after birth and that’s why I was feeling so horrible.

The next day we went in and got the results from my blood work.  Everything was completely normal.  I was happy to be healthy, but really shocked as well.  I knew how horrible that I had felt.  I knew that I hadn’t been just making it up.  In the end though it was most likely intense exhaustion combined with the beginnings of depression. 

Thankfully over the next day I began to feel much better.  The combination of having Zach around the house to help me, and realizing that Abel and I weren’t sick, helped me to be able to feel on top of things again.  We also worked on getting me more high quality sleep.  Abel was an extremely loud sleeper so I realized that I was never getting into REM sleep because I was constantly waking up to him or thinking that he was about to wake up.  We moved Abel into his nursery, but kept the doors open in between us.  Then we turned on a fan next to me just loud enough that I would still hear his crying but not every noise that he made.

By four weeks Zach was ready to go back to work for the second time.  The Sunday before he went back, I did a “practice day” where I pretended like I was home alone with the boys.  That day went really well and really boosted my confidence about staying home.  It put me back into the mindset that staying home with the boys would be a fun adventure instead of something that I just had to “get though”.

From then on I really fell into a rhythm.  I realized, or should I say remembered, that I am a person who can’t stay at home all day, that I need to feel busy and productive.  I tried to go on a fun outing almost every day and got together with other stay-at-home moms, so that Merritt would have other kids to play with and I would have adult interaction and conversation.  I figured out ways to keep both the boys happy and myself happy and balance all of our needs.  I started to love every day and enjoy the time I had with the boys.

I wanted to write about my postpartum experience for myself to remember it, the feelings and thoughts and emotions that I was going through.  It was the most intense two weeks of my life thus far as far as emotions are concerned.  I want to make sure that I remember how I felt at the time but also how I came out of it. Also, I hope that reading this might help another Mom if she is in her dark time to feel validated in her feelings and also to see that there is a beautiful light at the end of the tunnel.


Birth Story: "Intense. But incredible."

birth story_4 Baby Hamilton's birth story, as told by mama

I feel very blessed to have had a wonderful pregnancy, birth, and start to life together as a new family of three--and have to thank Health Foundations for providing the support to make it happen. When I became pregnant, I thought how and where I was going to give birth would be a no-brainer--I assumed I would do what all of my friends did: a hospital birth, with my OB, and definitely an epidural (you’d be crazy not to, right?!).

My first trimester was going so smoothly that I became a bit paranoid that I wasn't really pregnant. So Fran and I kept our pregnancy a secret from everyone until we made it to the second trimester. During that first trimester it felt like a mini honeymoon with Fran because we found ourselves staying in to avoid the questions around why I wasn’t drinking, etc. One night we searched Netflix for anything “baby” and came across “The Business of Being Born.” This documentary opened our eyes to a whole new concept around birth, and spoke to me in a way that really excited me. Fran and I had spent the prior 2.5 years completely changing our approach to health. Essentially we committed to putting health first, starting with our approach to fitness (we joined a Crossfit gym) and then diet (we did a lot of research around the pitfalls of the “standard American diet” and starting to cut out grains and sugars that were inflaming our system and keeping our bodies from burning fat for energy).

We had such a positive experience with this “alternative” approach to health, that I found myself very receptive to an “alternative” approach to childbirth. I have never had a need to go to a hospital before in my life, so I really started to wonder why I should need to be in a hospital now, with all these potential intervention measures, when I was the healthiest I’d ever been in my life and knew that women have been delivering babies naturally for thousands of years? After watching that documentary and a few others, we started doing a lot of reading and research, we toured birth centers and hospitals, and spoke to midwives and my OB about our options. After a lot of debate and consideration, we followed our gut instinct and decided to transfer to Health Foundations when I was 20 weeks in to my pregnancy. The remaining fears I had around being out of the hospital quickly went away as I had my prenatal appointments with the midwives and started taking the child birth education classes.

Okay-- now on to my birth story!

When I was 34 weeks along, I got this strong feeling that my baby was going to come early. I don’t know what it was, but I was convinced. So imagine my disappointed when my “due date” came and went, and no sign of baby! I chalked it up to my first lesson in motherhood--I’m on someone else’s schedule now. He calls the shots! So time to temper my expectations and go with the flow. Easier said than done, especially when my biggest fear was getting to 42 weeks and having to go to a hospital to deliver the baby.

When I went in for my 40 week appointment Monica checked me, and she said I was still very posterior. So I spent the week going on lots of walks, got adjusted a couple times, and tried accupuncture. At my 41 week appointment (Tues), Monica swept my membranes, which made me pretty crampy for the next day or so. Through the baby stress test at 41 weeks the baby checked out as healthy and the machine showed that I was having contractions--that was a surprise because I wasn't feeling them! Encouraging, my body was working away! I also went in for an ultrasound to check on amniotic fluid--all looked good.

On Friday of that week I had my next appt with Monica, and she thought maybe baby's head was a bit tilted, preventing him from engaging my cervix. So she showed me how to do inversions at home to try to lift him up and off, and then go for walks to get him moving down. Along with that I did more acupuncture, took more walks. No contractions. Went in on Sunday (41 weeks and 5 days) and had the catheter put in and went for a walk. To our surprise, it fell out after 2 hours! I thought maybe I had done something wrong, because it came out but labor didn't start. Amy had me come back in that evening to get checked and get the castor oil+herbs -- which I was to take the next morning if I wasn't in labor. She said my cervix was in a good spot, but didn't share with me how dilated it was (we found out the next day that I was 4 cm at that point! I'm glad she didn't tell me -- would have messed with my head I’m sure).

Cramps started to get intense around 6pm on Sunday, after that appointment. We went for a walk and went grocery shopping. I took a bath at 8pm to ease the cramping, and to get ready to go to bed early to try to get some good rest. I was in bed at 9pm, and contractions started then. From 9pm-1am I was able to rest/sleep between the contractions (8-10 min apart). My back was really feeling it, so I put on a hot pack which really helped. Fran was great at telling me to relax, just as we practiced in class.

At 1am I couldn't lay anymore -- contractions were getting more intense, and about 6-8 minutes apart. I tried different positions but all I could handle was standing and leaning against the wall, and then between contractions I found myself pacing the bedroom (with all the adrenaline, I had a hard time relaxing). I had a few unpleasant trips to the bathroom, where I threw up everything in my system. We called the midwife page at 2am, when contractions were about 5-6 min apart. Amy was excited for me that I was going to be able to have this baby without castor oil (I'm pretty sure having that bottle stare me in the face was what started labor) and she listened to me breathe through a contraction. I could still talk through contractions and wasn't yet vocalizing, so she told me to keep it up and said that next time I call I won't be able to talk as much.

At that point we called our doula, Sarah, and she came over. She had me take a hot shower, which felt great on my back. And then encouraged me to try laboring on my hands and knees, and start to really focus on resting between contractions (head down on a pillow) and pay less attention to the contraction. This helped me get some much needed rest. Contractions were getting more intense, and I had to fight the urge to pace and lean against the wall like before. Sarah left the room to let me and Fran work through contractions together, and she listened from outside the door. My contractions weren’t following a consistent pattern so after a while in that position, Sarah suggested I pull one leg forward (like a deep runners lunge) and do juicy hip circles (Sarah is also a yoga instructor at Blooma, so she was using cues that she uses in the classes I would go to--which was nice and familiar). I thought she was nuts, because I thought that would be too much, too hard. Between contractions I told her that I was never going to think of those juicy hip circles the same way again! :)

But I gave it a whirl -- for 2 contractions on each side. Well that seemed to adjust baby’s position, because I definitely started to feel something new, which I later confirmed was the urge to push! I just went with it, thinking I was still more than 3 minutes apart on contractions (I had mentally prepared for a very long labor)--and I didn't really wrap my head around the fact that I was already through transition. I guess those juicy hip circles in the runners lunge helped me get through that. But apparently my vocalization changed and based on how I sounded, my doula suggested we make the move to the birth center. This was around 4:30am. Sarah got in touch with Amy, who heard me in the background and said “Oh, yep, I’ll be right there!”. We jumped in the car and the car ride was as promised -- hard. Luckily there was no traffic and Fran drove very fast!

We beat the birth team to Health Foundations, so I had a contraction or two on the ramp outside the door- -likely waked some neighbors (Sarah found my flip flops in the parking lot, I labored myself right out of my shoes!). Rachel got there first, and we got in the room and had a couple more contractions. I told her I felt my body pushing, so she checked me, and indeed I was 9 cm dilated- with just a lip remaining! She asked if I wanted a water birth, and I said I was open to it (I wanted to let my labor decide what would feel best when the time came). But I really wanted to labor in the tub for some relief. So she started filling the tub right away--though it felt like an eternity before it was full. While I waited, I labored on the bed on all fours, and put my head down on a pillow to rest in between. Fran got emotional at this point, as he was so relieved that we were at Health Foundations and in good hands--everything got so intense so fast! At one point I looked up between contractions and said “tub time?”... I was thinking, let’s do this! I wanted to get in there and be able to move forward with pushing.

birth story_1

The tub was full, I got in, and the pushing urge was really there -- Rachel said I could, but slowly like I had been outside the tub. All in all, I pushed for about an hour (the total time I was in labor at the birth center!) -- and our baby arrived! I was on my hands and knees, so Rachel said that once he was born she would push him through my legs and he would swim up to me so I could catch him and bring him out of the water. It was completely amazing. He came swimming through with his eyes wide open--such an incredible feeling to be able to grab him and pull him on to me.

birth story_2

The birth team was awesome --I was so impressed with all of them. Fran was a champ, definitely benefited from the child birth classes to help prepare. It was tough for him to see me laboring. I am SO glad we had a doula--Sarah was amazing, and really helped at home (where the majority of labor ended up happening). I was surprised that during labor I never questioned my decision to do a natural labor. I was expecting to have doubts and to have to mentally push those thoughts out, but they never came. Also I had been nervous about my umbilical cord being around baby’s neck (I had been told that this is pretty common, but it still freaked me out)--mine ended up being wrapped around his neck once, but it didn’t harm him at all and Rachel was able to easily unwrap it.

In total I'd say I was in labor for 12 hours (including pre-labor)-- 6 of which was active labor+pushing. The birth team applauded my ability to control the pushing, and take it slow. I didn't need any stitches, and both me and baby checked out as healthy and good to go. I will share that when the nurses had me get up for the first time to use the bathroom (after about 3 hours of laying and bonding with baby), I made it to the bathroom but passed out once I got there -- I think at the sight of blood (first time I really saw any... and I have a weak stomach). The nurses took good care of me, got me lots of fluids, and back in bed without any issues.

birth story_3

It was truly an amazing experience. Intense. But incredible. And everyone who has checked on our baby's health have remarked on how awake, aware, calm, strong, and healthy he is -- which was our goal in having a natural birth, and I think only made even better by going with a water birth. And my recovery was smooth and quick, I was excited I didn't need to have any stitches (even after delivering a 9 lb, 3.5 oz. baby with a 15 cm head -- which apparently is in the 99.8th%!).

Special thanks to….

Health Foundations -- for providing personal attention and care throughout my pregnancy, and an unforgettable birth experience that helped our family get started in this new life together in a healthy, beautiful, and very special way.

My Husband, Fran -- for being fully committed to being my partner through this journey, for being such a strong supporter, and a beautiful father.

My doula, Sarah Auna -- for being a strong, calm, beautiful presence and providing support through this amazing process to both me and Fran.

Crossfit St. Paul -- for helping me to put health as a top priority, and to learn that my body is stronger and more capable than my head likes to think it is and that I can push through and achieve great things.

Body Workers, Amber (chiropractor) and Adrienne (massage) -- for helping me to feel amazing throughout my pregnancy, even at 41 weeks pregnant my body felt great! You helped me truly believe that my body was made to do this and it was all very achievable--and perhaps my swift labor was possible because my body was all good to go!

Blooma -- for being a weekly reminder throughout my pregnancy that my body is completely capable of birthing this baby, and for making the journey towards motherhood a special and sacred time. And for introducing me to my amazing doula, Sarah.

My Parents -- for raising me to be an intellectually curious, confident woman who feels empowered to make informed decisions

Birth Story: Meeting Finnlee

Finnlee Joan birth story

The birth of Finnlee Joan told by mama Nicole

Since she was 41weeks, I had been getting a little worried that she would never come out, so I requested to work a evening shift of Thursday so I would be on my feet. We had a check in with Monica who gave me a belly band and told me to have a good night at work. Sure enough I started having contractions. I didn't know what they were (now I know!)-- they stopped when I would rest, so I didn't really concern myself. After three weeks of everyone at work asking me "when are you going to have that baby? I can't believe you are still at work!?" I was excited to move the process along.

Friday 10/24

Evening comes along and I started to leak- best way I can describe it- my water was slowing breaking. I probably went to the bathroom like 50 time in 4 hours. I was having to convince my husband that my water broke but he was not so sure. We called Monica and she said just to sleep, eat, and the rest will take care of itself.

Saturday 10/25

Morning came and Nick was so excited the baby could be coming, he stayed up until 4am cleaning the house. When I wanted to take a hike at 9am, he was too tired. I called my sister-in-law and we went hiking up the sledding hill by our house, which did cause the contractions to increase but I was still able to talk through them. At this point, I had pulled out all my Health Foundations binders and was looking for all the stages of labor. Also it seemed like in every birth story in the Ina May book, the women went for a hike to keep labor going. I was fearful that the contractions would not ever come consistently because after the walk, they stopped again.

I had been seeing an acupuncturist to try to get the baby out earlier that week so I went to my 2:30pm appointment to get the show on the road. My husband drove to make sure I was safe and to ask the acupuncturist how this whole thing worked. He put the needles in me and he and my husband carried on talking and laughing meanwhile my contractions became much worse and I was not so easy going at this point. We left and I really wanted some ice cream before this labor thing got really intense so we stopped at Culvers. I ate a sundae and before I could get around the block, I had to get him to pull over so I could vomit. I guess it was Mother Nature's way of making sure I didn't eat any more bad food.

Recalling that the labor stages book said vomiting means things are moving, I was getting a little nervous. The book was right, I started having contractions every 5 min. But my husband would not let me go to the birthing center until they were 3-1-1, he must have been listening to Rochelle (our childbirth education instructor) during class. I begged him for two hours to leave the house, but it was not until Monica gave him the go-ahead to drive me in at 8:30 pm that he agreed.

We arrived to hear another mama laboring in the other room where another baby was being born. This was a little intimidating until I heard the baby cry, then I was jealous because she had a baby and I had a lot of work to do still. Monica checked and I was 5cm dilated. I asked her how far I was and she said " you're far enough you can stay."  It had not occurred to me there was a chance I would be sent home. I was ready to meet my baby and did not plan on leaving! Thank goodness we stayed at home long enough.  The next 6 hours were a bit of a blur: shower-tub-vomit-repeat. At one point, Monica checked me and said I could start pushing. My husband wanted to catch her and the first thing he saw was her little face with her hand over it. Nick told Monica that the baby had her hand on her face and we were still in the tub. Monica calmly told me to get out of the tub and do a runners lunge (with a baby head half way out.) One more push and there she was! Nick got to catch her like he wanted.

We met Finnlee at 3:26am on Sunday October 26, 2014.  She was 7lbs 10oz and 20.5 cm long.

Birth Story: Women should be running the world!

ElenaJane

Birth Story of Elena Jane

As told by mama Emily

Elena Jane was born Sept. 7 at 12:45 a.m. She weighed 8 lbs, 1 oz and was 21.5" long. Here's how it went down:

T-minus 5 days until the 42- week mark. Monday, Sept. 8 was 42 weeks, this was Wednesday, Sept. 3. We met with Midwife Monica, she had me wear a belly band to make sure everything was lined up. A belly band sounds nice -- oh it supports your back from your massive belly. But, actually it was kind of painful and I had to wear it over night. I kept coming up with excuses to take a shower so I could have a reprieve for 10 minutes.

T-minus 3 days until the 42-week mark -- Friday, Sept. 5. We met with midwife Monica in the morning and she checked things out. She said things had progressed slightly since last time and my cervix was soft. I was dreading the herbal induction but by this point had succumbed to the fact that this is probably in my future. Monica suggested we do the Foley catheter--I would need to return that afternoon so Midwife Amy could insert the Foley. I was sent home with the herbal induction if, by Sunday morning, nothing happened I would need to start the herbal induction -- which is ingesting something every 15 minutes followed by a lot of time in the bathroom (as I've heard).

My husband, Geoff, and I left with my bag of "goodies". We decided to go to Mickey's diner in St. Paul to load up on a greasy meal (figured it was similar to an herbal induction, right!?) and then went to Como zoo to walk around. Luckily, I took a 2-hour nap before going back to the birth center to get the Foley.

I know we learned about the Foley in childbirth ed class or at the Health Foundations complications class, but until I actually had to have it, I don't think I filed it in my brain as something to recall. The Foley catheter is a thing that is inserted into your cervix and then two small balloons are filled up with saline solution on each side of the cervix. This is meant to aid dilation. It falls out on its own around 4 cm, otherwise you have to have it taken out. I was scheduled to have it removed on Saturday at 4 p.m.

As soon as midwife Amy filled the balloons, I got instant cramps all over. By the time I came home, the pain was so bad, I called the midwife line to see if there was anything I should do -- I couldn't imagine having this constant pain until 4 p.m. the next day. I will remember Monica's words forever, "Well, Emily, it sounds like it's doing what we want it to do, which is put you into labor...so wrap your head around that!" I laughed and thought, OMG -- no kidding, I can start doing my relaxation and breathing (for some reason that didn't occur to me until she told me that). Monica said to focus on if contractions were coming and going and to call if they got close together or especially if the catheter fell out.

Once I had that to focus on, the contractions were more manageable. I could barely eat anything for supper (rice and cream of mushroom soup) and then I went to bed. The contractions lasted all night but by the morning, they had lightened quite a bit so I could eat a solid breakfast (thank goodness or I don't know if I would have had the energy). After breakfast we went for a walk which picked things back up quickly -- we didn't make it for a long walk and we had to stop every 5 - 7 minutes to work through a contraction.

I got back and called the midwife Amy to check in and let her know where we were at. She said she'd see me at 4pm but to rest and eat some oatmeal. Geoff went and got me some oatmeal of which I could eat half -- and then in less then an hour the contractions were so bad, the oatmeal came back up. Geoff called again to let Amy know the contractions were consistently 5 minutes apart ( I was also concerned b/c I needed to get to the birth center for antibiotics b/c I tested positive for group B strep -- and they said I should go in about 5 min apart). Amy said to really try to get some sleep and she'd see me still at 4pm.

I went to bed to try to get some good shut eye but within 15 minutes I had to pee and out came the catheter -- those balloons were WAY bigger than I had thought...Not quite a raquet ball but I'd say maybe two ping pong balls on each side. As it was coming out I thought, what good practice for birth -- HA (not the case). This was at 1:45pm on Saturday.

We ended up meeting Amy at the birth center at 3:30pm. She wasn't quite there when we arrived so I had some lovely heaving and ho-ing out on the deck until she arrived. As soon as she opened the door, I went into the birth room (the one on the left), knelt on the ground with my head on the sofa and dealt with a few more contractions while I got my antibiotics. I heard my husband ask Amy, "Do you think we'll need to go home or is she far enough along to stay?" Amy said based on the noises I was making, I was staying (I was relieved).

My doula, Kim, arrived shortly after. I started working through contractions in the shower on a birth ball, which was nice and then Amy had me get up and walk up and down the steps and around the studio upstairs. I don't know what we would have done without our doula there, it was nice for Geoff to be able to take a break or stay with me when I wanted. I was so out of it, I didn't notice any lapse in having someone there to help me. And I later found out that he had eaten dinner at some point...who knew!?!

Around 6 or 7pm, Dr. Amber (chiropractor) came to adjust me. Her three cute kids walked in and I was again heaving and ho-ing in the waiting room. They were so cute but I couldn't say a word to Amber!  After the adjustment, Dr. Amber had me go to the bed and hang one leg over the bed ( I think we watched a video of this in class) and labor there for a bit. After several of these on each side, Amy checked to see where I was at.

With Amy's check, my water broke because it was right there and she said I was fully dilated and ready to push! I couldn't believe it! It didn't even seem possible, I kind of just assumed at that point that the baby would be in me forever and I would have contractions the rest of my life. She said once I stood up, I'd probably feel a lot less pressure and an urge to push.

I did feel less pressure but never really had the urge to push -- just pushed when I had a contraction as they told me. This was 9:30pm. I started pushing on the birth stool -- not really a fan. I felt kind of like the gorilla I saw at the zoo that morning -- just sort of sitting there with my big belly while everyone watched me from every angle. Then we did squats in the shower -- these were my least favorite as they were the most painful, I think I thought the baby would accidentally fall out on the hard shower floor (I'm an idiot) and I didn't like that I couldn't rest in between pushes -- just stand. Then we labored on the bed in the normal legs raised position -- and a little with the birth ball on the bed..by far my favorite because I liked that I could rest in between. However, Geoff and our Doula sure had to be strong to basically be my make-shift stirrups!

We rotated between all of these positions maybe three times. Every time Amy suggested the shower squat thing I gave her a bit of a stink-eye (she later told me!) but complied because I knew the pain meant it was working. Throughout I thought I would not have enough energy to get through it. A few spoons of honey I think pushed me through.

Finally, we got to the point where I could feel things happen and Amy told Geoff to get ready to catch the baby. She had one of the nurses (Monica - a nurse in training and her first birth) take his place to hold my leg. That was exciting for me because I knew it was close. I asked if I could push even if there wasn't a contraction, I was ready for the finish line. I pushed and felt her head come out. Amy told everyone to wait (while she moved the umbilical cord from around the neck). I remember just being super still and then she said, "ok" and I was still. That felt like 10 minutes of waiting for -- I didnt realize she was saying ok for me to finish pushing. I just watched her and it felt like silence. Then she looked at me and said, "ok, push" and that was super easy! Elena's slippery squirmy body went from Geoff's hands to my stomach --- It was awesome!

I remember saying something along the lines of, "Holy @#$&, I cannot believe women have done this for so long. We deserve a huge amount of money and women should be running the world!"

The rest is a blur -- I had to get that darn placenta out. I had to cough a bunch which was hard because I was sore everywhere and my throat hurt from groaning for 12 hours. Ok, it wasn't anywhere as close as hard as birth but I was just tired and wanted to cuddle my baby. Geoff was nervous because there was bleeding and clotting that the nurse was concerned about but they all calmly did what they said would happen in the complications course (super helpful). I was on cloud 9 and didn't really have any concerns.

We packed up and headed home at 5:30 a.m. It felt a little weird to be driving home with an infant after having no sleep at all and going through that but it was nice to be home. All things said and done: Labor for 33-ish hours, active labor for 12-ish hours, pushing for 3 hours, 0 drugs (well accept for the antibiotics and ibuprofen afterwards), 0 herbal inductions :), 1 cutie pie and 1 happy family!!

I can't say enough about how amazed I am with the nurses and midwives at Health Foundations. What an amazing profession they have been called to do. I could never do it but I am so grateful for them!

Emily, Geoff, Elena & Ella bean (the dog isn't too jealous!)

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We're having a good time-- a birth story

Baby Jacob’s Birth Story as told by Rochelle Matos birth6As a birth doula, childbirth educator and mother of 4, I know that birth rarely goes exactly as you hoped or imagined it to be. However, in the birth of my fifth baby I experienced what I would call, “my ideal birth”. It was absolutely amazing and I’m so thrilled and thankful for the experience!

In the weeks leading up to Jacobs birth, I would have contractions from about 4pm-9pm every 15 minutes or so, nothing too strong, but it was comforting to know my body was getting ready. The day before his birth, these same easy sort of contractions started in the morning and kept going – all day. I wasn’t in labor, but this was different, so I texted my friends who were going to attend the birth that I was experiencing something new – just a heads-up. We had a wonderful evening as a family going on a picnic and swimming at a local beach. Got home and went to bed as normal.

That night, at 2:00am, on July 4th, 2014, I woke up with a real, strong contraction. Afterward I went to the bathroom and noticed some bloody show. “Is this for real? A 4th of July baby?” I kept thinking. I went back to bed and had another contraction at 2:30 - again, super strong - definitely different from the weeks leading up to this point. After lying in bed for another 15 minutes, I was feeling restless with lots of adrenaline. I got up and brushed my teeth and did my hair. Yup, I wanted to look pretty for the birth, so I straightened my hair at 2:45am. After that I felt calmer, and went back to bed at 3:00am. I contracted 2-3 more times and at 4:00am told Luis that I was in labor, he promptly encouraged more sleep, so we rested until 5:00am when the contractions were coming every 20 minutes. At 5:30, I called the birth center, Amy told me to eat breakfast and see what would happen as the sun came up. I did as she suggested, eating breakfast with my husband, but had a hard time determining if labor was going to continue or fade. At this point, the contractions were anywhere from 10-20 minutes apart and not getting closer… however they were so, so strong that after each one I would think, “I should be at the Birth Center by now”. At 7:15am I asked if I could come in, we made a plan to meet at the Birth Center by 7:45am.

Health Foundations birth centerLuis loaded the car, I texted my friends and called our doula. I told everyone that we were heading in, but since I wasn’t sure if this was really going to happen, I told them to wait on standby. The drive to the birth center was fun, Luis and I really enjoyed the morning together – I kept saying, “we should get up before the kids every morning and hang out together”. It was awesome to have a morning, just the two of us, it felt sort-of like a mini date morning together. We arrived at the birth center at 8:00am. Amy was still setting up so we wandered about upstairs… it was nice to have the birth center to ourselves and relax.

Initially, in my birth plan I requested no vaginal exams, however I was uncertain if I was really in labor, the contractions at this point were still 10-20 minutes apart. I asked Amy to check me, so I could decide if the team should come on in. She did, and found I was a 7-8cm. I was so relieved and that little bit of knowledge helped me to relax, I was in labor and going to have a baby - today!

labor #1At this point, I was experiencing a quite a bit of back labor. Amy suggested the TENS unit and I was eager to try it out for myself. It was really helpful – it didn’t take the pain completely away, and I still needed Luis to put pressure on my back, but it felt like a little massage to help ease the pain during and between contractions.

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At 8:30am, we asked our team to come on in to the birth center. As the birth team started arriving, I welcomed them - we chatted and laughed. Everyone was surprised by the joking and smiling of the morning. I kept saying “we are having a good time” in reference to the birth stories I read in Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin. And I really was having a good time, it was so fun to have my friends and family come and be with me on this special day.

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By 9:00am, Sibyl our doula, Anna my sister-in-law and photographer, Laura my friend and videographer, and Liz, with 2-week-old Maeve, all arrived at the birth center. Having everyone come was a wave of joy. When the last person drove up front of the birth center, I looked out the window and said, “Now that everyone is here we can go have a baby”. I had hoped everyone would be able to come, but with kids and busy lives it was all uncertain - I am amazed that they could all be there. Quickly, the labor picked up – with the frequency of contractions increasing.

 

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I made my way back to the birthing suite, knowing I’d want to get into the water soon. I looked around the room, it was so beautiful and everything was ready. I had set up my birth altar from the Sacred Pregnancy journal & class, I was wearing my birth necklace, Luis was with me every step of the way, rubbing my back and kissing me. Amy, my midwife, whom I truly trust, was ready. After a few really strong contractions I was ready for the tub.

 

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At 9:30am, I climbed into the tub and again looked around the room, everyone was here; it was perfect. I made a joke about everyone watching me enjoy my hot tub and where is my margarita and we all laughed. Did I mention we were having a good time?

 

Tub w: Birth TeamI rolled on to my knees away from everyone, facing Luis to get ready for baby to come. We quietly talked for a few moments, sharing this little break together. It was a private and intimate moment. Then I had the beginnings of wanting to push. I reached inside to see if baby was close – nope, he was about three inches inside. 10 minutes passed.

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tubamy1tubamy2Next contraction, I felt an overwhelming downward pressure, I couldn’t decide if I should relax or push, so I panicked, I can’t do this. I started shaking my head, I couldn’t breathe and my midwife, husband and doula were all talking to me and encouraging me. “Just Amy,” I said, “Just Amy”. She reminded me to slow my breathing, she told me I was strong, and that I could do this. I repeated her words and calmed down.

After a few little pushes, Luis got in the tub and I felt again where baby was at (hoping he was about to crown), nope, still an inch inside. With the next contraction, I felt like a bowling ball was moving through my body, it was so intense, I pushed short easy pushes as Amy encouraged, I reached down tubwithbackpressureand felt the head slowly coming, I stopped pushing wanting everything to stretch, and his head slowly eased out. I said “head”. I could feel the bag of waters around his head, like a soft helmet. Then the bag released and I said “bag broke”.

At this point I knew I was going to survive – one more push and I’d be done. With the next contraction, I gave a good strong push and his body slid out of mine. I opened my eyes to see my baby under the water, and slowly brought him up to my chest. The bag was still on his face and Amy pulled it off. As soon as I heard his first little whimper, I breathed a big sigh of relief and laid my head back on the tub. It was 9:51am.

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birth8After a bit of holding and laughing and rejoicing we climbed out of the tub to the bed. In bed we delivered the placenta and started nursing. While nursing in bed, I discovered a knot in his umbilical cord, which I thought was really cool. We had some food, continued to nurse, and enjoy baby Jacob. Slowly the birth team took off and soon it was just Luis and I and Jacob resting in bed together. Bliss!

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After four and a half hours at the birth center we were ready to make our way home. That night, we could hear the 4th of July fireworks as we lay in bed with our fifth baby - we even saw some from our window! It was a celebration of his birth, a beautiful day and new beginning for our family.

 

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Photos by Anna Botz

Fashionably Late, But Worth the Wait

The birth of baby Afton

By Mandi Crawford Morgan

Afton’s birth story doesn’t actually start on her birthday.  It actually started 9 days earlier, the first time I went into labor.  After that day, I never dreamed I would stay pregnant for another 9 days!  I think that had I not had that “false” labor, I would have been perfectly fine staying pregnant as long as I stayed pregnant, but since I DID have that day of labor, and I knew I was 4+cm dilated at that point, every day felt like it could be “the day”.  I was SO frustrated a few days later when all labor symptoms went away completely, as if nothing had ever happened.  It was also frustrating because I was wanting my mom to be there for the birth, but she and my dad were leaving for Michigan on Monday the 19th, so I felt like I was on the clock.  So many evenings I would get contractions, and a couple of those evenings, they would really kick in, making me think I would go to bed and wake up in full blown labor – but no.  They would always go away.  Right along with my sanity.

On Sunday the 18th we went to church.  I was 1 week “overdue”.  Here’s a friendly note: don’t go to church past your due date unless you are prepared to field eleventy billion questions and comments regarding the status of your pregnancy, your body, your activities, etc.

I was talking with my mom that afternoon, knowing that if I didn’t go into labor by that night, she and my dad wouldn’t be able to come up for the birth.  By early afternoon I had pretty much given up hope, and I told her as much, but told her I’d keep her updated and of course I would keep “trying to have a baby” (ha).  A few hours passed and I started getting some good, real contractions.  Nothing close together or super long, but they were nice and strong!  I was standing at the sink doing dishes and I realized they were getting to be a pattern, and they were getting closer together so I started timing them with my iPod, just out of curiosity.  Sure enough, they were coming consistently, about 7 or 8 minutes apart (if I remember right) and VERY strong!  I kept my mom updated, but tried super hard not to get my hopes up.

My mother-in-law texted me later that afternoon to let me know that she and my father-in-law were heading to bible study, and asked if I had any prayer requests.  I texted back that they could pray that these contractions kept up and turned into full on labor.  Around that time I texted my midwife to give her a heads up that I was having contractions, but didn’t want to cry wolf.  She called and we chatted and agreed that I would take a shower and see if they kept up.  I SO BADLY didn’t want these contractions to go away – at this point I was literally pacing around the house trying to make sure they didn’t go away.  I was afraid to change what I was doing for fear that *poof* everything would disappear.  I finally did take a shower, and was happy when the contractions stayed consistent (by this point they were closer together, I think less than 5 minutes apart and still strong, causing me to have to really concentrate through them).  I needed to get antibiotics for GBS+, I knew we needed to go to the birth center – but I was still SO paranoid that as soon as I got in the car, my labor would stall, and I did NOT want to leave that birth center without a baby in my arms!  But it was decided that this really did seem like the real deal, and I should come in anyway.

I called my mother-in-law to have her come over, and apparently they had JUST been praying for us and had JUST said Amen when her phone rang with my call I think that’s pretty cool.

In the last 2 labors, each time people came over, my labor would slow or stall out.  So when my mother-in-law came over I was making a huge conscious effort to stay calm and act as if it was no big deal, just trying to keep the adrenaline down.  Thankfully my contractions were still coming on strong, I even had to wait through a couple just to get in the car!  During the 1/2 hour car ride to the birth center, I expected things to slow down, as they always had, but instead things intensified!  Contractions were about 3-4 minutes apart and very strong – this was NOT a comfortable ride!  However, I did tell Ryan not to worry about bumps or anything, because I wanted the contractions to keep up.  He still apologized every time we hit a bump in the road.

It was decided that this really WAS real labor, and even if it wasn’t, I wasn’t leaving without a baby, so I told my parents that if they were able to make it, I would love for them to come.  They left Ames around 8 and got to the birth center before midnight.

I didn’t get a cervix check when I got there, it was determined that I was clearly in labor and that we already knew I was 4-5cm dilated, so checking me wouldn’t really tell us anything more at this point.  Fair enough.

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My parents arrived around midnight so I got to see my dad for a bit before he headed on to our house to watch the kids and get some sleep.  My mom stayed and was exactly the labor support I needed.  Between her, Ryan, and nurse Jill, I felt completely taken care of – I could handle anything!  I spent my time pacing around the room trying to get the baby to move down, stopping to dance and rock during contractions.  My goal was to keep moving, hoping my body movements and gravity would help get the baby moving.  I snacked on grapes and fruit leathers, sipped on juice and water, and spent a few hard contractions on the toilet (holy hannah, those ones are no joke!  But I always tell my doula clients “mama doesn’t like toilet contractions, but baby loves them!”  It really helps move baby into a good position).  I did spend a little time in the shower, using the hot water as pain relief on my back while I sat on the birth ball.  The whole time I labored, I was getting periodic checks for baby’s heart rate, and it was great every time.

I got a cervix check at 2:00am and it was determined that the baby was still pretty high and I was 7-8cm and that my bag of water was bulging.  We had been saying all along (before I went into labor) that if my water broke, we were pretty certain the baby would be born soon after.  When my midwife (Amy) checked me, she agreed that if my water broke, baby would come down, I would finish dilating, and we’d have a baby.  And though I typically am VERY much in favor of leaving the bag of waters intact until they break on their own (mine have never broken on their own), I asked her to break my water so I could get in the tub and hopefully have a baby soon.  I went to the bathroom, and at 2:30 she broke my water.  I was 8cm, -2 station, and 95% effaced – and it was time for the tub!!!

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For you mamas that have never been able to labor in a big tub/whirlpool, my heart goes out to you.  The second I submerged myself into that water, I felt SO much pain relief!  In fact, I even had one good contraction in the water and thought to myself “oh my goodness, I should have done this long ago!”  It was glorious.

And then my body laughed at me and said “PSYCH!!”  From then, it was game on.  Contractions came on strong and hard and close together.  Just like in my labor with Tanner, I was getting cramps in my hips during contractions and I couldn’t find a good position to be in during them.  That sent me into a bit of a panic during those contractions – I moved and flipped and spun.

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My team was so good, coaching me and encouraging me to breathe and relax through the contractions, offering sips of Emergen-C between and reminding me to let my baby do the work right now.

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Around 3am I could no longer just breathe through the contractions.  My body took over and I began to push through the contractions.  Amy checked me and informed me that I still had a thick anterior lip (I wasn’t fully dilated) and that it was VERY important that I keep breathing and not push.  Sooo…  ummm…  yeah.  Telling a mama who is laboring naturally and having the natural urge to push to not push seems great in theory, but truly, it was out of my control.  I tried, I really really did.  But I couldn’t help it.  My body needed to push.  I felt and sounded very animalistic and not in control of my own body at this point.  I remember Jill holding me at one point and giving me one of those “hey you, pull yourself together, you HAVE to do what we tell you for your own safety!” speeches.

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I breathed.  I moaned.  I made noises that would probably scare my children.  I tried everything I could NOT to push.

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Despite my efforts, my baby was descending on it’s own.  Who needs mama to push, baby knows the drill!  The anterior lip went away.  I had reached down to feel my progress at one point and was encouraged that I could feel a head, but I knew it wasn’t “crowning” quite yet.  At about 3:10 I reached down again and was SHOCKED to feel my baby’s head – it was crowning and I could feet about an inch or so outside of my body!!  Amy let me know that I could gently ease the baby’s head out on the next contraction – and that’s what I did!  The baby’s head was out and I was still in shock!  Amy and Jill had to remind me that it was ok to push and that I had to get the rest of my baby out now.  One more push is all it took!!

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I did it!  I did it!!  I labored hard, I let my body do the work, and I CAUGHT MY BABY!!  Oh my goodness, I wish I could explain how I felt in that moment, but it’s indescribable.

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I felt proud, exhausted, exhilarated, happy, elated….  My baby was HERE!  The baby that surprised us with that little blue line 9 months before, the baby we hadn’t planned for, the baby that would complete our family…The baby I never knew I needed, was here!

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And SHE was beautiful Ryan was right – he was 4 for 4 on guessing our babies genders – it was a sweet little girl.  We named her Afton Dawn (Dawn is both my middle name and my mom’s middle name) and she was born at 3:12am with barely a voluntary push.  She was amazing.

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I had gotten my dream VBAC Waterbirth in a Birth Center.  I couldn’t have asked for it to go any better.

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I got out of the tub to “birth” the placenta, and Ryan cut the cord after it stopped pulsing.  Seriously, everything (aside from being overdue, haha) went exactly as I had hoped it would go.  I felt empowered and strong.

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And seeing Ryan wrapped around another baby girl’s finger?  Priceless.  He is such a sweet daddy.  He was so smitten, at first sight.

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And having my mom there?  Also priceless.  Our family has been through a lot over the last few years, so having her present at the birth of my 4th baby (she was also at the birth of my first baby, and was also a fantastic coach) meant so much to me.  It still brings me to tears thinking about how far we’ve come and how much God has done to heal our family – seeing her in these photos represents so much more than just a grandma holding her newest grandchild.  So so much more.

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We all hung out at the birth center for a few hours, Ryan had to work that morning, so he snuck a nap, and I rested and got some food in me.  We left the birth center 4 hours after Afton was born and I got to go home and introduce Cody, Tanner, and Trinity to their newest baby SISTER.  It was a dream.  Seriously – if you are in the area and are looking for a good birth center experience for your maternity care and birth, I can’t say enough good things about Health Foundations.

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All of the photos in this post were taken by the lovely Christina of Electric Lime.  She was so awesome, professional, and she gave me an unforgettable gift of birth photography, I can NOT thank her enough for capturing this once in a lifetime moment for me and my family!!  She even came to visit us a couple weeks after Afton’s birth and did a little lifestyle session in our home!  And you KNOW she’s talented because I was so overwhelmed with life at the time that my house was a disaster and she was still able to capture beautiful images without letting everyone know that my house was a mess.  Thank you Christina!

And thank you Dr. Amy (midwife) and Jill (nurse) for being nothing short of AMAZING during Afton’s birth!  I couldn’t have done it without my team (to include my mom and Ryan of course)!

Gather this Friday for Birth Story Sharing

HFBigroomgatheringJoin us this Friday Sept 20 from 4:30 to 6:30 to share your birth story, listen to other women's birth stories, or both! Come share and gather birth wisdom!

This is open to all mamas------bumps and babies welcome.

You can choose to share or just listen--if you want to share, please note that upon signing up.  You can sign up by emailing jaime@health-foundations.com

We will have tea and treats. The cost of this gathering is $15.

Join us for a wonderful afternoon of amazing stories!  We look forward to seeing you then!

Why Write your Birth Story?

WritingBirthStoryCoverArtGrowing, birthing and caring for a new baby is one of the most joyful times in our adult lives, and also one of the most demanding.  During the postpartum period, so many peripheral tasks may be vying for our attention (and, for many of us, all we really care to do is stare at our beautiful new baby…and sleep whenever possible.) Making time to write your birth story may seem like one extra thing on the to-do list, but there are many reasons to make this task a priority.

Writing your birth story is a transformative, cathartic experience, with the power to help you process, make meaning from, heal from, preserve, celebrate and honor your unique experience of birth.

The following are eight great reasons to write your birth story.

1:  To remember

Writing your birth story preserves your memory of this important event for a lifetime (or longer!)  In the early days, you may run through your birth story again and again in your mind, remembering all the little details of this amazing experience.  But as time goes on, these details inevitably fade.

While it is ideal to begin writing in the early postpartum, it’s never too late.  If it has been months or longer since the birth of your baby, it is still very much worth your time to write your birth story (you surely remember more of it now than you will ten years from now!).

Memory-joggers, such as labor playlists and pictures, can help you recall fading details.  Talking to your partner or others present at your birth can also help to fill in the details of your birth, so you can write and preserve these memories.

TIP: If you can’t sit down to write out the narrative of your story, at least jot down some notes in those early hours and days after your baby’s arrival.  In the last weeks of pregnancy, consider getting a small bedside journal or type notes into a phone app or email to yourself.  (This can be helpful not only for jotting down birth story details but also for remembering the questions you want to ask your care providers—midwives, doulas, pediatrician, etc).

2:  To process and reflect

The experience of giving birth is one of the most profound, transformational, and emotionally rich experiences we will have in our lives.  In fact, how we gave birth can have a profound effect on how we see ourselves, how we feel about ourselves, and how we interact with others—including our baby.  For many women, it is imperative to their well being to talk about and process their birth stories.

Given the intensity of the birth experience, our memories can be jumbled or even chaotic-seeming until we have a chance to process them and assemble them in narrative form.  Writing can stabilize our experiences.

Writing your birth story enables a unique mode of processing that can’t necessarily be achieved through talking alone.  Writing accesses different parts of our brain—it is a reflective and reflexive practice that can help you process your story on a deeper level, helping you to explore and understand your experience in a particular way.  People often discover how they feel about something or find feelings transmuted as they begin to explore them through writing.  New perspective can be reached as you process and reflect on your birth experience by writing it down.

3:  To Heal

Along those same lines, writing your birth experience can be a healing experience.  One woman, reflecting on writing her birth story, commented: “At first I felt disappointed and angry that I didn’t not get to have the natural birth that I wanted.  But as I wrote about our transfer, how I ultimately delivered my baby, and how I felt when I held her, the anger changed and I felt like I was speaking not just for myself but for other women that don’t get to have their ‘perfect birth.’ I also realized that though the birth didn’t go as planned, I was surrounded by support of my husband and midwife. I ultimately felt strong and like I did my best in a situation I couldn’t entirely control.”

Both writing and storytelling are time-honored methods of healing from challenging life experiences.  While writing can’t always take away the trauma of difficult childbirth (or any experience), it can help us to express how we are truly feeling—it can give voice to the grief, disappointment, shock, and sorrow—and may help us come to terms with what happened and begin to make peace with it.

When we share our story on paper or maybe with others, we can find support, feel less alone, and become more empowered.  Saying: “this happened to me and this is how I am feeling about it” is a powerful exercise on the healing path.  Remember, while you can’t always change the past, you always have the power to change your connection to the past in this moment.

If you are struggling with aspects of your birth experience, you deserve to have the support you need to continue processing and healing.  In addition to writing, speaking with a counselor, having body/energy work, making birth art, healing through movement, and other measures can go along way to helping you find peace after difficult childbirth.

4:  To share

When we write about our birth experiences, we can share them with others—which has a number of potential benefits.  Sharing our story can help us bond with other people and find support.

When we share with our partners and other support people, it helps them gain insight into our perception of the birth, which can increase empathy and understanding and invite conversations about aspects of the shared experience.  When we share with other women, especially other mothers, we can find support, understanding, and camaraderie.

Sharing can have an unknown or unanticipated ripple effect.  You never know how your story will help someone else.  But it probably will.

5:  For your child

And let’s not forget our little ones (as if we could).  Writing down your birth story will enable you to share this story with your child and family for decades to come.

Consider for a moment what you know about how you were born.  Do you know the details?  Did your mother document your birth in some way?  Do you wish you knew more?

People whose mothers have a written their birth story often report gratitude for having such a treasured account of how they came into the world.  It can make your child feel special and important to know that you took the time to document their birth.  Whether or not it was an ideal situation, this birth was how they came into the world and it will always be special for them to know about it.  The experiences you had and the lessons they teach can have a profound impact on your child, both when they are young and when they grow up (and perhaps have children of their own).



“I printed out our birth story and placed it in my daughter’s baby book so she can look back and read about the day she was born. I can only hope that it will inspire her to have a birth without fear when she is ready to birth to her own baby someday,” reported one mama. 

6:  To preserve the beauty and spirit of the birth process

Many women (and men!) are profoundly affected by the stories of birth.  Birth is a sacred and primal process that connects us to our roots and to something greater than ourselves.  Author and healer Tami Lynn Kent calls birth the process of coming to the spirit door.

Like the beautiful children we birth, each birth story is completely unique and all have elements of the extraordinary in them.

Some women are driven to write their birth stories in an attempt to capture that beauty and power in words.  It can take some courage to do this.  While it may be “safer” to stick to the medical facts, writing about one’s full experience of birth—the physical, emotional, and spiritual—can be a powerful act.  Being honest about the deeper layers of your birth experience can be a true gift to yourself, your family, and anyone fortunate enough to hear your story.

7:  To help and inspire others

For most of human history, storytelling was the most potent way to transmit knowledge among kin.  In the past, we had a much greater connection to the world of birth and babies than we do today.  By the time we reached adulthood, we would have likely heard many birth stories, if not witnessed many births ourselves.

One woman writes: It’s sad that we don’t live in a culture where women gather post birth, removed from responsibility and routine, to sit around the fire under the stars with our female clan (including the elders and the young) and share our birth stories. Too many of our stories get lost in our hearts.”

While we are less connected to birth and birth wisdom today, telling our stories can be a way to reconnect to ourselves, each other and the wisdom of birth.

Telling your birth story can help other women in your life.  We can learn so much from each other and our mothers; and our children can learn from us when we take time to talk about our birth experiences.

When things don’t go as planned and we are brave enough to share our story, we can help other women who have or will experience similar situations.  Likewise, when we have a positive experience of birth, sharing our story can be a way of showing other women what it looks like to birth naturally, or without fear.  Hearing positive birth experiences is a powerful antidote to the mainstream perceptions of birth as a risk-laden, painful medical event.  In this way, the personal can become political, as we spread the truth that birth can be a positive, fearless, beautiful experience.

8:  To change our collective perceptions of birth

It was not so long ago that women were put under anesthesia (“twilight sleep”) during labor, completely disconnected from the experience of their births.  It is not uncommon in many parts of the world for women to have few options or control over their birthing experiences.  Even those with more choice may feel like it’s not acceptable or desirable to speak about their birth experiences.  It can almost feel taboo to speak candidly about birth, much less celebrate and honor this experience.

Writing and sharing your birth story can be a political act.  It can be a way of saying “Birth is important.  The WOMEN who birth are important.  MY birth is important. “ Regardless of how you feel about your birth, putting words to your experience is a powerful way to show that your experience matters.  Because it does.

Some women may feel reluctant to write their stories.  Maybe they don’t know where to start, are afraid they aren’t going to tell it right (impossible!), or get stuck in the practical limitations of sitting down to write with a little baby to care for.   But nothing worth doing is ever easy (cases in point: pregnancy and childbirth).  While not easy, these labors of love are worth it.

If you’ve written your birth story and want to share it with others, please consider submitting your birth story to be posted on our blog (with pictures too if you wish!)
If you need a little help carving out time, want to receive some guidance and feedback, or just want to write and share your story among other mamas, please consider joining us for our upcoming Write Your Birth Story Workshop in September 2013.
For information about either birth story submission or the upcoming workshop, contact Jaime@health-foundations.com.

Write your Birth Story Workshop!

WritingJoin us for a special two-part workshop during which you will have time and space to reflect on, process, write about, and share (if desired) your birth story with gentle guidance from Health Foundations’ blogger-writer-professor-mama-doula-in-training, Jaime Fleres-Mizejewski. We will gather at Health Foundations on two Fridays: September 6 and 20 from 4:30 to 6:30 PM

This birth story workshop is for you, whether you:

  • gave birth a few weeks ago or many months ago
  • love writing or get sweaty palms at the thought
  • have a draft of your story or wish to start from the beginning
  • had the birth of your dreams or a different journey than the one you’d hoped for

No matter where you’ve been or where you are, your birth story is unique, important, and sacred—and deserves to be expressed and heard! Just like birth itself, writing your birth story is a profound and cathartic experience, the results of which you and your child will cherish for a lifetime.

Workshop Details:

Our first time together, September 6, we will:

  • talk about the importance and benefits of writing your birth story
  • gain insight into how to write (or edit) your unique tale
  • go through a guided meditation/reflection time to evoke memories and emotions from your birth experience
  • have time to write or edit your story
  • enjoy tea and treats

Please bring a journal and a writing instrument (crayons, colored pencils, pencils, or pens) or your laptop.  To help evoke memories, you may also wish to bring birth pictures, your birth playlist, any notes you may have taken in the postpartum, or any special objects that hold meaning to you and your birth story.

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Between the first and second gathering, you will have time to edit and polish your writing, getting feedback from Jaime via email if you desire.

On our second evening, September 20, we will have an opportunity to share our birth stories or listen to other’s stories, as you feel comfortable.  We will celebrate your accomplishment (with chocolate)!

Babies are welcome to attend both of our gatherings.

The cost of this two-part workshop is $40, including a round of editing feedback from Jaime via email, if desired. Please register by emailing Jaime@health-foundations.com.

Writing, like birth, is a transformative experience with the power to help you make meaning from, process, heal from, celebrate and honor your unique experience of birth.  Come honor yourself, your story, and your child; and connect with community.

Birth Story: "I couldn't believe he was ours and what I had just done."

20130305_Merritt_final_056The birth of baby Merritt

By Hannah Pierson

The Tuesday of my first week off work (9 days overdue) Zach and I went into the midwife for a non-stress test which the baby eventually passed , but took his sweet time to do so.  I had a cervical exam and I wasn’t dilated at all.  Then we got an ultrasound to make sure that the baby was still doing well.  Since Merritt passed everything, we went back home and scheduled another appointment for Wednesday.

On Wednesday we went back to the birth center and I had a Foley catheter inserted.  A Foley catheter is a type of intervention to try to induce labor where they insert a catheter and then fill it with small balloons full of water (one balloon on the inside of your cervix and one on the outside).  The objective is to use the catheter to slowly stretch your cervix open over the next 24 hours.  Getting the cervix to begin to dilate is a way to jumpstart labor and can sometimes even begin contractions.  The hope was that this would begin my labor or at the very least dilate me so that labor would be easier once it began.

Getting the catheter inserted was painful and uncomfortable, but Zach was there which made it much easier.  We went home with Jimmy Johns as a treat and Zach returned to work and I was pretty much bed bound.  As the day wore on I got more used to the catheter (the most annoying part is that it’s taped to your thigh) and in the afternoon Zach and I even took a very slow walk around the block.

As we were getting ready for bed, I went to the bathroom and started to feel the catheter falling out of me.  I screamed for Zach, as it was a weird sensation, and then it just sort of plopped in the toilet with my mucus plug attached to it.  It was much larger than Zach and I had thought so that was a bit of a shock.  We were so excited that the catheter had dilated me and we called the midwife who told us to come in the next day.  We then proceeded to call our moms who were very excited for us as well (we had to stave off Zach’s mom from jumping in the car and heading up right then).  We calmed ourselves down and were able to go to bed.

The next day (Thursday, 11 days overdue) we went in to meet with the midwives.  The catheter had indeed done its job and I was now 4 cm dilated.  We formulated a plan.  That Monday I was going to be two weeks overdue and would have to be induced at a hospital.  After the catheter, the midwives still had one more thing to try to make the baby come: an herbal induction.  An herbal induction begins with taking castor oil and then every 15 minutes taking a homeopathic or tincture.  All of these are meant to make your uterus contract and begin labor.  We decided that we would give my body one more day to go into labor naturally and then do the herbal induction on Friday.

We spent the rest of the day on Thursday (Valentine’s Day) doing absolutely everything that we could to make the baby come.  I got acupuncture for the first time, went to the chiropractor and got an adjustment, at the spiciest food that I could handle at Everest on Grand, had chocolate cake at home and then went for an epic walk at night in the snow.  Nothing happened.

DSC_0154The next day (Friday, February 15th), worried and feeling super unenthused about the herbal induction; I got up and did my prenatal exercise video one last time.  Then I ate a big meal and chugged the half cup of castor oil in orange juice.  It wasn’t as horrible as I thought it would be.  The worst part was the oily residue that it left on my lips and tongue.  As the morning passed I hung out in bed and followed the herbal induction regimen (the tincture was very foul tasting).  At first I felt just fine, but then by mid-morning I was on the toilet miserable.  At one point I cried to Zach, “This is horrible and I bet the baby won’t even come and I’ll still have to be induced!”

In the afternoon I repeated the castor oil again and was feeling pretty sorry for myself.  I was lying down in bed when suddenly I felt what can only be described as a gunshot go off from my uterus to my vagina.  I screamed to Zach downstairs and rushed to the bathroom.  When I sat on the toilet I could feel liquid falling out me.  I told Zach that I thought that my water had broken.  He kept saying, “Are you sure?” and I kept saying, “Well, I know what peeing feels like and I know I’m not peeing!” It was 3:00pm.

At the same time I was still experiencing the unpleasant side effects of the castor oil and shooed Zach out of the bathroom.  I then started to feel contractions and I was screaming out the bathroom door to Zach, letting him know when they started and stopped so he could time them on his phone.  He desperately wanted to be in the bathroom but I wouldn’t let him come in.  At one point I saw him peeking through the door and yelled at him to get away.  Even later, I could hear a swooshing sound coming from the hall and I realized that Zach was “sharking” (steam mopping) our floors.  He said that he felt so helpless and needed to do something.

It was all very intense between my water breaking, the contractions, and the after effects of the castor oil and I eventually let Zach in for support.  He called the midwife and they told us to come in to get checked and see how I was progressing.  Zach began to fly around the house packing our things for the birthcenter.  He also made a frantic call to our friend, Alex, who was going to watch Juneau for us while we were gone.  Later she said that she had never heard him sound so out of control.

On the way to the birth center, Zach began calling family to tell them to come up.  Funny story though, just a couple hours earlier, he had actually told them to stay home.  Earlier in the week Natalie, my mom, and his mom had told him that they planned to come up to the cities on Friday and stay until Monday.  They explained that they wouldn’t need to bother us and they would stay in a hotel.  Zach let this little detail slip to me and I completely flipped!  I already felt like the whole world was breathing down my neck to have this baby and now my family would be in the cities the entire weekend!  I felt like a watched pot.  So Zach kindly asked all of them to please wait to come up.  Natalie decided to go ahead with coming to the cities anyway.  My mom and dad decided to go visit my Grandmas in Manchester and then head up afterward.   Only Kim and Dick actually listened to Zach and they decided to go to the movies to get their minds off waiting for the phone to ring.  Just as they were about to leave is when Zach called them and told them to come up right away.  Kim says that she never would have forgiven him if she would have missed the birth.

We arrived at the birth center and I was still having contractions and my water was slowly breaking.  As it was February in Minnesota, it had snowed recently and there were huge mounds of snow in front of thebirth center.  Worst of all people had parked in front of the plowed sidewalk entrances to the building.  Zach was about to yell at someone to move their car when I grabbed his hand and climbed over the pile of snow.  The situation seemed much too urgent for waiting for a car to move.

Once inside the birth center we went upstairs and Jill (the nurse) checked my cervix to see how dilated I was.  She asked if I wanted to know and what would be a “good” number to me.  I told her that on Wednesday, after the catheter had fallen out, I was four centimeters and I would like to still be there our more.  She told me I was looking “great”.  Later I learned that “great” was still four centimeters.  Jill also tested to make sure that the fluid I was leaking was amniotic fluid and it was.

Afterwards Jill told us to go downstairs to one of the birthing suites.  Although a lot had happened, Zach and I had it so ingrained in our minds that labor would take many hours and we would spend many of those hours at home, that we thought that we would probably still be sent back home.  When we got downstairs, I asked, “Are we staying now?” and it was confirmed that we were.  That’s when I allowed myself to finally register that I was in active labor.  For the next few hours, even as the contractions intensified, I was just so grateful that I was in labor and finally having my baby.

At the beginning of labor I was walking around between contractions and then leaning on the counter in the birth suite during contractions, making big hip movements.  Zach began to squeeze my hips during each contraction and although I had him try other types of massage, hip squeezes were the best for me and that’s what he did through each contraction throughout the entire labor.  I often thought, “Ugh, I’m so glad I have a strong husband,” because at one point Natalie tried to do the hip squeezes and she simply couldn’t do them.

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Speaking of Natalie, she came early in my labor and we asked her to begin to photograph the birth.  She was wonderful throughout my labor and, pregnant herself, acted as our doula providing encouragement and fetching things.

After a while I changed positions and labored sitting on a small stool, bracing myself against the bathtub.  Afterwards I moved to the toilet facing backwards. Then Amanda (our midwife) suggested that I might enjoy laboring in the shower.  Amanda helped me in and I sat on a birth stool facing the support bars of the shower.  As I moved to the shower, Zach raced to change into his swimsuit.  There were people in thebirth suite and Amanda was in the bathroom.  Zach started to take off  his pants and Amy (our other midwife) noticed and closed the door.  Zach  said to Amanda, “Amanda, I’m changing now.  I’m like the least modest person on the planet” and Amanda said back, “Don’t worry, I’m not exactly modest either.”

For the next while, I labored in the shower, leaning forward and having Zach press my hips during a contraction, while the water ran on my back.  In between contractions, I would lean back and let the water run over my face, it felt so good, like a reward for a well done contraction.

During each contraction I would try to deeply breathe in and out and stay as relaxed and limp as possible.  Zach would remind me when I would unconsciously tense up parts of my body to stay relaxed and loose.

When I came out of the shower, completely naked, there were two girls about my age in the room who I had never met before.  They were birth assistants, RNs who the midwives bring in for extra medical support.  We had been told that they would be coming to the birth during one of our prenatal appointments, but I completely forgotten about that fact so when I came out I very snottily said, “WHO ARE YOU?”  In the end both of the assistants were wonderful and so helpful.

After the shower, Amanda suggested that maybe I should walk around upstairs in the yoga studio and do some big hip movements to help my labor along.  As we walked upstairs I remember looking out the big uncovered windows at the birth center and thinking, “Well, there we go, I’m in a bathrobe for all of Grand to see!” although I really didn’t care very much by that time.  I had a contraction on the front desk of thebirth center and then walked upstairs, slowly taking the stairs two at a time and doing lunges to help open me up.

In the yoga studio I did hip circles sitting on a yoga ball, then kneeled and leaned over the ball as I did hip circles.  Zach and I also slow danced together while I did big hip movements.  During this time is when my mom and dad came.  My mom came up to the studio and looked like she felt really bad for me, like her heart was ripping apart seeing me in pain.

After awhile, my legs began to get tired and I asked Amanda if it would be okay for me to lie down and labor on the bed for awhile.  As I went back downstairs, I passed my dad, who was fiddling on his phone in the lobby.  I remember I said, “Hi Daddy,” and he said, “Hey, Honey” and I was thinking, “I can’t believe that other people are on their phones right now!”  It was the first reminder that I had that life was going on outside my labor, which seemed crazy.

When I got back into the birth suite, I got into bed and Amanda left Zach and me alone to labor together.  My contractions on the bed were excruciatingly painful.  I think it might have had to do with the fact that I had nothing to brace myself on and was unconsciously tensing up during each contraction.  Zach helped me to get through about five in that position and then I moved back to the toilet and finally back into the shower.

This time though, even the warm water wasn’t enough to relieve the pain.  My contractions were beginning to become unbearable and in between I began to say, “This is so hard,” to Zach many times.  I also began to think in my head that I couldn’t go on any more.  I thought that I could get through a few more contractions like these, but if I would have to continue for hours and hours I simply couldn’t do it.  I longed for a plan of action and even told Amanda, “Amanda, if you could just tell me that I only had to do ten more of these I could get through it”.

Amanda could hear that my contractions were intensifying and beginning to change by the fact that my breathing was harder to control.  She also could hear that I was beginning to push before I even knew that I was.  She and I developed a plan that I would do two more contractions in the shower and then move to the bed to get checked and to ensure that my cervix was fully dilated with no lip.

Now, with this plan, I had a renewed confidence that I could carry on.  We moved to the bed and Amanda checked me.  At this point I was almost dilated although there was a lip on my cervix.  She manually had to push it back (which I really don’t remember as being very painful) because I was so focused on the fact that I had a plan.

After she pushed my cervix back, I got in a pushing position sitting on a birthing stool facing the bed.  Amanda originally suggested that I face away but when I said that I wanted to brace myself on the bed she was fine with it although she had to use a mirror and flashlight to check me in what was a more awkward position for her.  Amy was lying on the bed in front of me (I remember thinking that she looked so comfortable) and she began coaching me through pushing contractions.

Now, no one ever really told me how incredibly different pushing contractions are from the rest of contractions during labor.  I found regular contractions to be painful, like the most intense menstrual cramps you can imagine.  But pushing contractions, I barely even remember what they felt like because I was doing such intense work during each one.

At the beginning of each contraction I would tell Amy that I thought one was coming (they were actually harder for me to identify than regular contractions) and then I would take a big breath and bear down through the contraction as long as I possibly could.  I would breathe in and repeat and then do it again as the contraction faded away.

It felt like the most intense exercise of my life and there was so much pressure on my bottom that it was shaking, but I really enjoyed it.  Instead of just breathing through pain I was an active participant with a task and everyone was so encouraging.  By this time Kim was also in the room and in front of me were four mothers who had birthed a total of 13 children and they were encouraging me and cheering me on through each contraction.  They would all say, “Good job, Hannah!  Great pushing!  You are an awesome pusher!” which felt so good to hear.  In between contractions, I would say, “Thank you, thank you,” which everyone thought was kind of funny.

I also felt extremely loving at this point and kept telling Zach (who was still behind me, squeezing my hips) how much I loved him over and over.  I almost even told Amy that I loved her and then realized that was a little weird and held it in.

After pushing on the stool for awhile, I was making good progress.  I asked Amanda if she could see the head and although I wasn’t that far, I could reach up and feel his head inside me (it was squishy).  Amanda suggested that I could move to the tub and although I was fine on the stool, I took her suggestion.  Everyone helped me move and position myself in a way that I was wedged perpendicularly in the tub, pressing my feet and back against the sides.  As I got in I saw that Zach still had his shirt on and immediately told him to take it off as I thought he looked so weird.

I pushed Merritt out in the tub.  With each contraction I could feel my vagina opening more and more.  It burned a little around the edges but instead of experiencing a lot of pain, I mostly just couldn’t believe how weird the feeling was.  I kept saying, “This is craziness!” because it absolutely was.

During this time everyone was gathered around the tub, watching.  I talked to Amanda and asked her to please help me to slow down when he was crowning because I wanted to make sure that I didn’t push too hard and hurt myself.  She did just that and while Merritt was crowning she had me make “puh puh” noises like The Little Engine that Could to slow down my pushing.  Eventually Merritt’s head came out and then his body came out in a large gurgle afterwards.  It was the most insane feeling I’ve ever experienced!

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He was placed right on my chest.  It was 10:55pm. Zach and I cried and smiled.  I opened his legs and announced that he was a boy to everyone.  Then I double checked just to make sure.  I always deep down felt that he was a boy and I told everyone that.  Zach felt a little deceived because I had even kept that from him, I was worried that if Merritt was a girl, she would have a complex because her mom always thought she was a boy.

After announcing that he was a boy, I remember that everyone was talking a lot and I almost had to yell to tell them his name and explain why we picked it.  Then we hung out with Merritt for awhile longer and eventually Zach cut his cord.

I stepped out and delivered the placenta without even pushing, which was wonderful because at that point I just wanted to be done with the whole birth part and snuggle Merritt.  We hung out in bed for awhile and Merritt latched on right away.  In the next couple of hours the Grandpas visited, I got stitches (not fun) and ate a Jimmy John’s #9.  Then Natalie left to get some much needed sleep and so did my parents.  Kim stayed with us and we made the journey home.  Zach drove so slowly to not hurt me on the bumpy, snowy roads but it didn’t matter because no one was out at that time of night.  I remember looking at the clock at 3:30am as I snuggled in bed.  Merritt was in his cradle next to me and I reached over and touched him.  I couldn’t believe that he was ours and what I had just done.  I was so grateful to God.

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