Childbirth

Why We Love The Business of Being Born (And You Should, Too!)

Business of Being Born Banner

Did you know that the US currently has one of the highest infant mortality rates among industrialized nations? Though you may find this to be shocking given the wealth of our nation and available technology, this issue is among several concerns about birth in the US that Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein set out to explore in their documentary, The Business of Being Born. This cutting edge documentary was created with the intent to provide women with a thorough examination of the current state of the birth industry in the United States. Through raw footage of empowering homebirths, candid interviews with mothers, doctors, midwives and other health professionals, and an analysis of common hospital birth practices, Lake and Epstein have created a provocative and informative film that is a must-see for all women. 

Why They Created It:

Ricki Lake initially sought to create a film examining common birth practices in the US after her own first birthing experience left her feeling unsatisfied and like something was missing. Interested in the factors leading to the decline of the use of midwives and the increase in the use of medical interventions, including C-sections, Lake hoped to expose some of the reasons women feel unequipped to have a natural birth. Epstein, a strong proponent of natural homebirth directs the documentary while pregnant herself and as you see in the end provides viewers with a firsthand account of why it is necessary to be flexible sometimes with your birth plan in spite of your own wishes.  

Why We Like It:

This film is all about empowering women to realize the tremendous and natural capabilities of their own bodies without intervention. Through extensive and awe-inspiring footage of natural births, The Business of Being Born successfully shows that women need not fear childbirth and that they have the strength within themselves that they will need to birth their baby. The post-birth euphoria that the new moms experience in the film is palpable through the screen and allows viewers to see some of what they might be missing should they feel pressured to undergo a cascade of medical interventions at the hands of their doctors. Lake and Epstein also take a look at the potential motivations for hospitals to encourage the use of interventions and in some cases even favor the use of Cesarean sections to avoid the possibility of a lawsuit. This film is beautifully feminist yet will appeal to any individual who is expecting a baby and wants their partner to have the dignity of the choice to have a childbirth that is best for her and her new baby. 

What You’ll Learn:

The Business of Being Born is a treasure trove of interesting facts about the history of childbirth in the United States, the decline of midwifery and the rise of and reasons for the medicalization of birth. A few topics explored in the film include:

  • The cascade effect of childbirth interventions 
  • The reasons many obstetricians are ill-suited to attend to natural births 
  • The economic implications to hospitals when allowing women to follow their body’s natural birth plan without intervention
  • The risks associated with repeat Cesarean sections
  • The primal bonding mechanism of the natural birth process
  • The relationship between the growth of technology and the changes to the childbirth industry in the US
  • The power, pride, and strength a woman experiences through natural birth.

The Take Home Message:

All women deserve the right to make informed decisions about their childbirth experience. Whether you choose to birth at home, in a birth center or at the hospital, you are entitled to the right to be educated, empowered and supported in the process. Lake and Epstein have created a powerful film that boldly personifies this mission through real life accounts, professional commentary, and raw footage. The Business of Being Born is a must-see for all women expecting a baby. This December, Health Foundations is thrilled to welcome the esteemed creators of this cutting edge documentary to our EVERY WOMAN CAN event at Aria. Lake and Epstein will give the keynote address during this night of celebration, community, and empowerment. For more information about EVERY WOMAN CAN, visit our website at http://www.everywomancan.co/.

Ten Tips for Partners at Birth

dad at birth 2While we tend to focus on preparing mama for birth, it is also essential that papas, partners or any other labor supporters to feel prepared.  While it would take the length of a book (or more) to fully prepare papas and partners for the birth experience, here are ten quick and easy essentials to keep in mind. 1.  Be responsive to your partner’s cues and protect her space.  Follow her lead.  Do what you can to ensure she is feeling safe and supported.  Keep the lights dim, the room quiet and the atmosphere calm.

2.  Minimize questions, distractions, and instructions (from yourself and others) especially during contractions.  Don’t take silence personally, it is probably a sign that she is going inside and focusing on the monumental task she is undertaking.  Silence is often a really good sign.

3.  Help her to be comfortable.  Suggest position changes regularly.  Observe her alignment and support her head, torso, low back, arms, hips, knees, and feet as needed.  Keep her warm, but offer ice packs or a cool cloth if she gets too warm.  Use comfort techniques you’ve learned together before the birth.

4.  Maintain your center and your stability.  Find your own breath.  Tend to yourself so that you can tend to her.  Do so discreetly so it doesn’t serve as a distraction.

5.  Take her to the bathroom hourly.

6.  Help her keep the pitch of her voice low and monitor her facial and physical tension.  Help her relax.

7.  Give her encouragement and tell her you love her.  You might even kiss if it feels right.  Feelings of love from mama help her release oxytocin, which can help with labor.

8.  If her breathing gets rapid, shallow and panicked, model a slow, even, deeper breath for her.  Maybe try to make eye contact with her as you do this, it can help to ground her.

9.  Keep her hydrated and nourished.  Offer regular sips of water (you can do so without words).  Offer labor snacks in early and active labor.

10. Help her maintain her rhythm.  Let her find what works best for her and find ways to support her there until its time for her rhythm to change again.

What other advice would you give to papas and partners for labor & birth?

Labor nourishment

trailmix Evidence shows that, in most cases, the benefits of eating and drinking throughout labor far exceed any potential or perceived drawbacks.  Women need calories and hydration throughout the hard work of labor in order to birth optimally and avoid risks such as exhaustion (and consequential ineffective contractions), electrolyte imbalance, low blood sugar, and other problems.  Furthermore, perceptions of pain can also be exacerbated when a mama is hungry and/or thirsty in labor.

We’ve written before on the importance of hydration during labor.  Today, we are going to talk about some possible snacks you may consider having on hand for mama during labor (and possibly the birth team—partner, doula, family—too).  If you are birthing at the birth center, you are responsible for bringing your own snacks and fluids for labor.  You’ll also want to bring or have a plan to order delivery of a post-birth meal that is more substantial than your snacks.

Recommendations on choosing labor snacks

You won’t know ahead of time what is going to sound good to you in the throes of labor.  However, you can make some wise choices ahead of time to have food on hand you think you might like to have on hand for the big event.  Having a few different options is a good idea, too, to increase the chances that what you have will sound good when you’re needing nourishment during labor.

  • Choose foods that you like and tolerate well
  • Consider foods that are comforting to you
  • Some suggest selecting the same kinds of food you might choose if you were getting over a cold or flu
  • Consider easy-to-eat, ready-to-eat (or easy-to-prepare) foods
  • Consider packing small quantities of the food you want to bring
  • Many suggest avoiding greasy, heavy, or really rich foods

 Possible foods for labor

Feel free to consider whatever on this list sounds good to you and ignore the rest!

1. Oatmeal

Warm, nourishing, gentle on the tummy and easy to make, oatmeal is a great choice for many mamas in labor.  Add fruit and honey if desired.

2. Fruit

Many women love bananas (a good source of potassium) during labor.  Some swear by frozen grapes.  Many do not care for citrus/acidic fruits in labor, though some do.  Choose whatever fruits you prefer and get them ready to go (cut into bite size pieces if possible) before labor or in early labor.  Dried fruit, such as raisins, cranberries and apricots are also good choices.  Applesauce is also a labor favorite for many mamas.

3. Honey

Honey is a great source of instant energy (carbs) during labor.  It is also not something that requires chewing, which mama may prefer if she is having trouble keeping food down but needs energy.  Honey sticks are easiest for mom to suck on without changing her position.  You can find these in some stores.  We’ve also found them at the St. Paul Farmer’s Market (and perhaps they can be found at other farmer’s markets).

4. Yogurt

A great source of protein and carbohydrates, yogurt is also easy on the tummy.

5. Cheese

In cubes or slices, this snack has calcium and protein for lasting energy.

6. Protein, nut-fruit, or granola bars

Pure Bars and Lara Bars have fewer and whole, quality ingredients compared to other bars.

7. Miso soup or a light soup broth

8. Graham crackers, saltine crackers, other crackers

9. Eggs

Scrambled or hardboiled, eggs are light and contain protein for long lasting energy.

10. Nuts or seeds.

An excellent source of protein packed in tiny bite-sized bits. Try almonds, cashews, pumpkin or sunflower seeds.  You may want to make a trail mix, combining nuts and seeds with dried fruits.

11. Whole grain bagel or toast

12. Popsicles

Opt for a healthy option if possible.  You can also make red raspberry tea, cool it, sweeten, and make into popsicles for labor

What did you enjoy during your labor?

Oxytocin in Childbirth: A Labor of Love

Last week, we talked about the role of endorphins in natural childbirth and today we turn our focus to oxytocin, another crucial hormone in the symphony of chemicals created naturally in the body to help mom and baby through childbirth. There are four major hormonal systems active during labor: endorphins, oxytocin, adrenaline and noradrenaline, and prolactin.

What is oxytocin?

pregnancy oxytocin

Oxytocin, known as the “love hormone,” is a hormone and neuropeptide that causes both physiological and behavioral effects when produced in the body.  It is produced in the hypothalamus of the brain and is released into the bloodstream via the pituitary gland.

Our bodies produce oxytocin when we are attracted to a mate, during lovemaking (it assists with arousal, fosters bonding and may facilitate sperm and egg transport), following positive social interactions (it can even potentially improve wound healing following such positive interactions, say experts), and with other positive experiences.  It is thought to enhance our capacity to love ourselves and others.

Oxytocin is produced in pregnancy, levels increase significantly during active labor and childbirth, and both mom and baby produce oxytocin after birth and as long as baby breastfeeds.

Oxytocin evokes feelings of contentment, trust, empathy, calmness and security and reduces anxiety and fear. Under certain circumstances, oxytocin can hinder the release of cortisol, or stress hormones.

What are the functions and roles of oxytocin in childbirth?

Oxytocin plays a major role in the following:

  • Uterine contractions that help facilitate dilation in labor
  • Facilitating the milk let-down reflex
  • Fostering the mother-baby bond
  • Encouraging maternal behavior in the first hour after birth
  • Released during breastfeeding, oxytocin causes mild uterine contractions after birth to expel the placenta and close of many blood vessels to prevent bleeding
  • Assisting the uterus in clotting the placental attachment point postpartum

What helps to facilitate the production of oxytocin naturally during labor?

Unhindered production of oxytocin is important in labor because oxytocin is responsible in large part for uterine contractions.  Oxytocin initiates labor and helps it keep going strong.

Because the production of oxytocin is so connected to our emotions, it is paramount that a laboring mama feel calm, secure, and uninhibited in her environment and that she trust those around her.  A dim room without too much excitement or distraction is an environment conducive to the unhindered production of oxytocin.

happy birth

Natural ways to stimulate oxytocin production in labor include:

  • Caring, non-medical touch
  • Nipple stimulation (this can be helpful in getting labor started in some cases, or to increase strength and frequency of contractions)
  • Laughter and humor
  • Kissing (Ina May, a famous midwife, touts “smooching” as a great way to keep labor going)
  • Gentle exercise, dancing and rhythmic movement
  • Feeling grateful and loving (a partner’s words and actions can be so instrumental in helping mama create oxytocin and so help her labor along)
  • The repetitive use of mantras, prayer or sounds
  • Meditation, positive visualization and hypnosis
  • Relaxation
  • Warm bath

What can diminish oxytocin levels in labor?

Again, because of the emotional connection, any experience of fear, anxiety, stress, tension, discomfort, or distrust can negatively effect oxytocin production during labor.  A feeling of being watched can also hinder oxytocin release.  The use of synthetic oxytocin (Pitocin)—which also stimulates contractions and is used to induce labor—can also slow the body’s own production of oxytocin.

Oxytocin in Breastfeeding

oxytocin breastfeedingOxytocin, also called the cuddle hormone, is released by both mama and baby during breastfeeding.  It can cause slight sleepiness, mild euphoria, a higher pain threshold, and increased love for one another.  It also helps build the attraction and strengthen the bond between mama and baby.

As you can see, oxytocin is an amazing gift and tool our bodies make to help us through childbirth and postpartum.

Endorphins in Childbirth: Body's Natural Painkillers

Mother and babyIt is simply amazing what our bodies are capable of doing.  And at no time is this more obvious than with pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding.  It is incredible how well built the female body is for giving birth.  We have everything we need built into our very chemistry to be able to go through labor and give birth! In the 1970s scientists discovered what laboring women have witnessed and understood for ages: that the body produces what it needs to temper the physical stress and pain of natural childbirth.  Science put a name to the body’s natural pain killers—endorphins—and discovered exactly how they work in the body before, during, and after birth.  What they found is remarkable. ***

What are endorphins?

Endorphins, specifically beta-endorphins, are hormones secreted within the brain and nervous system in situations of stress or pain.  They are the internal (endogenous) equivalent to our pharmaceutical painkillers, such as morphine (though without the many undesirable effects of the external, or exogenous, drugs).

 Ten cool facts about endorphins in childbirth

1  Endorphin levels increase toward the end of pregnancy.  During labor, endorphin levels rise during each contraction, most noticeably in the second stage of labor. Endorphin levels are highest just after birth.  It takes two weeks after birth for endorphin levels in the body to return to normal.

2  Endorphin levels are highest during vaginal deliveries in unmedicated mothers.  They are lower in women who have a cesarean section after laboring on their own for some time and even lower in women who have a cesarean without experiencing labor.

3  The use of exogenous pain medications (endorphin-like drugs) dramatically decreases the body’s natural production of endorphins.  Unlike narcotics, which are given in “surges” to some laboring women, endorphins are released in a more steady fashion, providing consistent pain relief without the crash that comes with big bursts of chemical pain relief.

4  Endorphins can actually help regulate the pace of labor—high levels produced in the body and slow labor by lowering oxytocin levels, which can serve to regulate the intensity of labor and our ability to manage it.

5  Endorphin levels protect and serve babies during childbirth as well.  Endorphins are elevated in newborns that experience distress during the birth process.

6  Endorphin production in the body is tied to our emotional states.  Stress hormones (i.e. catecholamines) counter endorphins in the body.  The more relaxed and calm a woman is through childbirth, the more endorphins she produces and the less stress hormones her body makes.  A relaxed laboring woman actually feels less pain than a woman who is scared or distressed.  Unresolved stress or anxiety should be processed prior to labor to prevent these from becoming obstacles to her labor experience.

7  Endorphins behave differently from woman to woman, which is perhaps one factor in why women have different perceptions of the pain of childbirth.

8  Endorphins stimulate the production of prolactin, the relaxing “mothering” hormone that aids in breastfeeding and mama-baby bonding after birth.

9  Endorphins are the cause of the “high” many women experience during labor and in the early days postpartum.  They assist in allowing a woman to be alert and attentive to her newborn despite sleep deficits.

10  Endorphins are present in breast milk, which may explain the natural high that babies can get after breastfeeding.

***Note: Natural hormones oxytocin and prolactin also play a major role in birth, though this article focuses primarily on endorphins.

All about Birth Doulas

doula artMany of our clients wonder what is the benefit of hiring a doula for a birth center or home birth.  After all, isn’t your midwife a lot like a doula?  Not necessarily. We love it when our families choose to have a doula and believe it provides many benefits before, during and after birth.  In fact, we believe so wholeheartedly in the benefits of a doula that we have a doula internship program, which links newer doulas with families in our care.

In this post, we’ll explore what a doula is, how she* fits into your birth team, what support she offers, and what he training looks like. In our next post, we will talk about the many benefits of a doula

*While there are some male doulas, most doulas are female and thus the use of “she” here.      

What is a birth doula? 

A birth doula is a trained professional with knowledge of the physiology of birth and the emotional needs of laboring women.  She offers continuous emotional and physical (but not medical) support to mom and her partner throughout labor.

Doula as a unique part of the care team

While a midwife knows and supports a mom and her partner, she is chiefly responsible for the medical and clinical care of mom and baby during labor.  She may offer intermittent support and comfort as well.  A doula will offer continuous emotional support and comfort as soon as early labor, as a woman and her family desires.  Nurses are present to help with the medical and clinical aspects of birth and may not be familiar to the family prior to birth.  A family often knows their doula before labor.  A partner offers emotional support and loves the mom and baby like no one else on the birth team, but does not typically have the knowledge and experience that a doula can offer.

What does a doula do?

doulalaborpushSome of the specific support services a doula provides include:

  • Before birth, she often meets with an expectant family one or more times to get to know them, their wishes, hopes, and fears, and so come to understand how best to serve them in labor.  This also gives the family and doula an opportunity to develop a rapport and build trust.
  • A birth doula works to empower families through education and access to resources before, during and after labor.  She does not speak for a woman or her partner, but helps them make informed decisions and advocate for themselves and their desired birth vision.
  • In labor, a birth doula provides continuous support, meaning they will come to your side during labor when you wish (at home or in the birth center) and stay with you all the way through your labor and delivery and the first few hours postpartum.
  • A doula supports the role of the partner, and does not usurp his role in a woman’s labor; conversely she supports and enriches this bond and this support.
  • A birth doula can help suggest and facilitate physical comfort measures to help a woman cope through labor.
  • She offers emotional support to both the laboring woman and her partner.  She remains calm and objective throughout the birth process.
  • She facilitates communication between members of the birth team (professionals and kin).
  • After the birth, doulas often meet with families, offering breastfeeding and early postpartum support.

What does a doula NOT do?

A doula does not:

  • Provide medical information or clinical advice.  She will not perform clinical or medical tasks such as taking mom’s blood pressure or temperature, monitoring fetal heart rate, performing vaginal exams, etc.
  • Make decisions for a woman or her partner, or interfere with their care
  • Judge a woman or her partner for their wishes and choices in birth
  • Take away from the role of the partner or any other birth team member

What training does a doula have?

doulatrainingBirth doulas have a choice to become certified with a certifying body or not. The most common, though not the only, certifying body is DONA, or Doulas International (formerly Doulas of North America, hence the acronym).  Bear in mind that uncertified doulas may have the same level of experience and qualifications but have chosen, for one reason or another, not to become certified.  For this reason, it is important to ask prospective doulas about their experience.

To become a DONA-certified doula, a person must:

  • Read five selected books on childbirth and breastfeeding and additional materials.
  • Complete childbirth preparation (often a childbirth education series of at least 12 hours)
  • Complete at least 3 hours of breastfeeding training
  • Complete a doula training program of at least 16 hours
  • Attend at least 3 births (evaluated by the laboring woman and her care team)
  • Develop a resource list for clients
  • And more.

How much does a doula cost?

Doula services, which vary based on a doula’s experience, her included services, and other factors, can range anywhere from free to over $1000.  Some doulas have a set fee while others use a sliding scale.

While most insurance coverage does not cover doula services, the benefits of having a doula are so well demonstrated that insurance companies and the state are beginning to consider and adopt coverage for doulas.  It’s always a good idea to ask your insurance carrier if they cover doula care (every request for a service, even if not approved, is documented and is taken into account by the insurance carrier when determining covered services in the future).

Bear in mind that a doula has often completed a rigorous training process, makes herself available on call for a 4 to 5 week period around a woman’s due date, spends anywhere from a few hours to a few days with a laboring family (sometimes paying for childcare and other expenses while away), devotes hours to supporting a family before and after labor, and has professional expenses like any other independent small business professional.

How do I find a doula? 

  • Talk to us!  We have a list of a few doulas we know and recommend. We can also talk to you about our doula interns.
  • Childbirth Collective Parent Topic Night: All About Doulas.  This is a great event held monthly in Saint Paul and Minneapolis where doulas and expectant families gather to meet and talk about doulas. The Collective also has a list of doulas on their website.
  • Blooma.  Many of the yoga teachers and educators at Blooma are also doulas.  This may be a great way to make a connection.
  • Childbirth education classes.  This can be another possible avenue to connect with a doula.
  • Word of Mouth.  Talk to other mamas who have had doulas and find out who they recommend.

Check out our related post on the benefits of having a doula!

The benefits of a doula

doulaIn our last post, we covered the basics about doulas—what a doula is, what she does, how she fits into the birth team, her training and how to find a doula.  Today, we talk about the many proven benefits of having a doula. In 2011, an extensive study—the largest systematic review of continuous labor support—demonstrated the effects of having a doula for over 15,000 women who participated in 21 randomized controlled trials.  The study authors concluded from this extensive research that:

Having continuous labor support has clinically significant benefits for women and their babies and no known harm.  All women should have support through labor. 

Other experts have said that if the benefits of a doula could be bottled up in a jar and given to laboring women, it would be a crime not to use such a potent medicine.

Doulas mean better outcomes for mom

The best and most recent studies show that women with continuous labor support have:

  • shorter labors (by about 40 minutes on average)
  • a greater chance at spontaneous vaginal birth
  • fewer interventions, such as cesarean section or vacuum extraction with forceps
  • lower rates of epidural or analgesia to manage pain
  • lower rates of induction (via Pitocin)
  • more positive feelings toward their birth experiences, leading to a cascade of positive effects including
  • lower rates of postpartum depression

Specific studies have found that doulas help increase a laboring woman’s self esteem and actually can decrease her perception of physical pain during childbirth.

If we are just talking continuous labor support, wouldn’t a partner or a friend have the same effect?  Not necessarily.

The effects of continuous labor support are strongest when the person is not a member of the hospital staff or a person in the woman’s social network, and was present solely to provide one-on-one labor support (i.e. a professional doula).  With a doula, specifically, women were:

  • 34% less likely to view their birth experience negatively
  • 31% less likely to use synthetic oxytocin to speed up labor
  • 28% less likely to have a c-section
  • 12% more likely to have spontaneous vaginal birth
  • 9% less likely to use pain medication

Newborn in mother's handsDoulas mean better outcomes for babies

Research also shows improved outcomes for babies when doulas are present for a laboring woman.  These babies have:

  • better APGAR scores at birth
  • shorter hospital stays
  • fewer admissions to special care nurseries
  • have greater early breastfeeding success
  • have more affectionate mothers in the postpartum

In sum, the most important thing is for women to have continuous labor support from someone– a nurse, midwife, partner, or doula. However, with several birth outcomes, doulas have a stronger effect than other types of support persons.

For tips on how to find a doula, please see our post here. 

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.

Calling all new and expecting Dads! New Dad's Group

Gals, encourage your partners to consider this fantastic new Dad's Group forming in the Cities for expecting and new papas.  Their first meet up is THIS Friday August 9th at 7:30 at Psycho Suzi's.  

Here is what organizer Jeff Hellenbrand had to share with us about this awesome new group:

There are several groups in the Cities for expecting mothers, but I couldn't find any equivalent for guys. As an expecting father, most of my friends do not have kids yet. Instead of boring my friends with all of the details and anxieties of the pregnancy and birth, I decided to create a meetup group just for new and expecting dads.

What makes this group awesome is that we have no agenda. It's an excuse for new and expecting dads to meet, hang out and have fun. We're guys. So we talk a lot about work, music and sports. But we also end up talking about pregnancy and fatherhood. And I think that's a conversation that's too important to not be having. But none of us wants to feel like we have to talk about that stuff or that we can't talk about something else when we feel like it. Anybody who considers himself a new or expecting dad is welcome.
Our next meetup is coming up fast! Since this is our first meeting for most of the guys, I wanted to have something fun and low-key.
We're meeting at Psycho Suzi's on Friday, August 9 at 7:30pm. Here's the link to the event: http://www.meetup.com/Dudes-Becoming-Dads/events/130418752/
It's important that guys RSVP for this one (preferably early next week) so a large enough space can be reserved at Suzi's.

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.

DSC_0163

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!

DSC_0484

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.

DSC_0317

Birth Story: "the single most amazing experience of my life"

IMG_1296

The birth of baby Norah

By Rebecca Barth

Everyone always says that you’ll know a contraction when you have one, but for the first hour or so I wasn’t sure that I was in labor.  I told my partner, Dylan, to start timing the squeezes to see if there was a pattern.  Sure enough, each squeeze lasted about 40 seconds and they were coming about four or five minutes apart.  Labor!

We called the midwife to let her know what was happening.  She encouraged us to labor at home for as long as possible.  “Call me back in a few hours,” she said.  I took a warm bath and tried to nibble on snacks and drink water.  The contractions were getting more persistent and requiring more focus.  I rolled on an exercise ball for a while, listened to Abbey Road on vinyl, but the thing that helped the most was to hold on to the back of one of our dining room chairs while swaying my hips and gently stepping my feet.  I let my whole spine undulate during contractions while trying to relax as much as possible.

By midnight I was sure that labor had progressed enough to go to the birth center.  The midwife asked to talk to me during a contraction, which was not easy but I could do it.  She confidently said that I was not ready to come in yet and that I should try to labor at home a little longer.  However, I was getting concerned that if we waited too much longer the 20 minute car ride to the birth center would be extremely uncomfortable.  She encouraged me to take another warm bath and meet her at the center in two hours.

Although I had been anxious about the car ride, my contractions actually slowed way down on the drive over.  By the time I waddled into the birthing suit in my jammies and slippers, my contractions were much more manageable than they had been at home. Even so, I was confident that I was at least four or five centimeters dilated.  I had heard so many women say that they too were confident about their progress only to find that they had not dilated at all, but I was certain I was not one of them.

The midwife asked how dilated I had been that afternoon.  “About two,” I replied, “How far am I now?”  The midwife maintained a cool composure and said, “You’re making nice progress and you have some work left ahead of you.”  I laughed, “No really, how far am I?”  She just reiterated that I was doing great and that I should keep up the good work.  I was able to translate her evasive language myself: I was pretty much exactly where I was that afternoon.

My lack of dilation aside I was really proud of myself.  I felt like I was handling my contractions beautifully; I was able to turn inward, tune out the rest of the world, and focus on relaxing and staying open and calm.  I swayed, rocked, and gyrated around the dim room.  I quickly shed all of my clothing and hopped into the glorious tub.  I kneeled in the tub for quite a while as my doula supported me through contractions.  (Dylan had ducked out for a quick nap, knowing that we still had a long night ahead of us.)

Although the contractions were getting intense, I remember being able to quietly talk with my doula during the breaks.  I had known ahead of time that I didn’t want a lot of talking or noise during labor, but in this warm, cozy room with just the two of us, our soft whispers were so comforting.

My midwife came and checked on me periodically.  I was laboring fine and Baby was doing well.  Thus far in labor I had almost exclusively been upright, either standing or kneeling.  Lying down, even being on my hands and knees or draped over something, was not comfortable.

The midwife got concerned that with so many hours of being on my feet I was going to get tired.  She asked me if I felt I could lie down to try and get some rest.  Rest?  Was she kidding?  I humored her and gave it a try, but just as the first contraction set in I jumped up and started my swaying dance.  No way was that going to work.

The contractions got stronger and I became more introspective.  The talking in between contractions stopped.  The nurse and my doula encouraged me to try and eat something.  Food sounded revolting, but I remembered from our birthing class that eating and drinking during labor were important.  I forced myself to swallow a bite of applesauce, and somewhat defiantly shoved the spoon back into the bowl as if to say, “There, I ate.  Are you happy?  Now stop bothering me.”  I remember the nurse chuckling and saying that one bite wasn’t going to cut it.  I think I later stomached a fruit popsicle which seemed to satisfy the masses.

Some time later the midwife was back and strongly suggested that I try to get off my feet for a bit.  I understood why she wanted me to rest--I needed to have enough energy to keep laboring at the birth center and to be able to push later--but I really didn’t think I could do it.  However, I remembered hearing about women who eventually needed to be transferred to a hospital for an epidural and a break because they were exhausted.  The one place I didn’t want to end up was the hospital, so off to the bed I waddled.

The second my contractions started in that bed I started to cry.  I squeezed my eyes tight and started to fight each contraction.  For the first time in my labor I started saying “Ow,” and “I can’t do this.”  I silently cursed at the midwife for making me lay down.  I felt lost.  Then, my wonderful nurse took both of my hands and ordered me to open my eyes.  She looked straight at me and said, in a calm but firm voice, “This is your birth.  You get to decide how you do this.”  I remember feeing like the words could mean anything, but her look said everything.  She was helping me find my way back.  She was telling me to work with my body, not fight against it.  I sniffled, nodded my head, and took a deep breath.

The next contraction came, and I let it.  I breathed, and I let it happen.  And then, I kid you not, I fell asleep.  My contractions slowed down and I remember waking up in a dream-like state for each of them.  I would make sounds, move, or even sit up during a contraction, and then I’d drift back off to sleep.  My partner told me later that he and the doula marveled in disbelief at the sleeping woman in labor.

After I had rested for a time I felt ready to continue laboring.  My contractions were strong and increasingly intense.  The midwife checked my progress again, but she still wouldn’t tell me how much I was dilated.  Seriously?!  I was sure that meant that I hadn’t made much progress and that the midwife felt it would be discouraging to hear how little change had occurred.  She tried to focus on the positive changes (my cervix was thinning, Baby was doing fine), but I “still had some hard work ahead.”

I tried to rally.  I gathered my strength and went on laboring.  By now my contractions were becoming relentless.  There was little and sometimes no break in between contractions.  I stood under the hot spray of water in the shower for what seemed like eternity.  I gripped the support bars with all of my might while I swayed back and forth under the water.

Talking was long gone.  I didn’t talk and everyone around me knew not to talk either.  I started making small, sometimes completely unrecognizable hand gestures to communicate.  I mimicked drinking from a cup when I was thirsty, I shook my head almost imperceptibly when someone asked me a question, and I held up one finger when I wanted people to wait while I was having a contraction.  If someone reached out to touch me during a contraction, up went my finger.  It said, “back off, I’m busy.”  If someone tried to take my vitals and I felt a contraction coming on there was the finger again saying, “hold on a second, don’t touch me.”  My partner and doula deserve so much credit for being able to give me what I needed during this phase.  I wasn’t speaking or letting anyone touch me and yet I still felt completely supported and cared for.

As the contractions got even more intense I found myself dismayed by how relentless the process was becoming.  I couldn’t call for a time out and my body didn’t listen when I wanted a break. I felt like I was a servant to the process.  I kept talking to myself, reminding myself to stay open, visualizing how the contractions squeezed from the top while pulling the cervix open at the bottom, but I started to surrender to the knowledge of my body.  I took solace in knowing that I didn’t actually have to do anything; my body was doing it for me.  I could help or I could hinder, but this baby was coming.

We learned many comfort measures in our birth class, but as I felt my body changing during labor I instinctually found my own comforting rituals.  For a while I had the urge to push against something with my head.  Somehow pushing with the top of my spine helped me free up the bottom of my spine and I was able to sink into more relaxation.  Dylan’s chest was the lucky recipient of my pushing head.  At the start of the contraction I would find Dylan, grab him by the arms and pull him toward me.  I would push him up against a wall and then sink my head into his chest and twist it back and forth as my lower body swayed and swung.

I also started to do more sounding in this phase of labor.  I had the urge to make a lot of “mmm” sounds, but I remembered our birthing instructors words: “open mouth, open sphincter.” I tried my hardest to turn every “mmm” into a “mmmaaah.”  I also started talking to the baby.  During particularly hard contractions I would mumble, “it’s okay, it’s okay...” over and over.  My partner and doula knew I was talking to the baby, but at one point the midwife came in and seemed to be concerned.  “It is okay,” she affirmed.  I wanted to tell her “no, I know that I’m fine, I just want the baby to know he or she is fine.”  This felt like my first real motherly act: the baby was going through this stressful and arduous process with me and I felt responsible to help the baby stay calm and to reassure him or her that everything was going to be okay.  And somehow, putting the needs of the baby before my own made the contractions more bearable.

The hours kept passing and the contractions got overwhelming.  At one point I said, “I don’t know if I can do this any more.”  Even as I said the words I knew they weren’t true.  I knew I could keep going, I just needed some reassurance that everything I was doing--all the movements, moans, and grunts--were normal and okay.  Later I learned that when my doula went to get the midwife and told her what I had said, the midwife simply nodded, stood up, and calmly walked into the birthing suite.  This was just a phase that most women went through.  She crept into the bathroom where I was laboring and said just enough calm, reaffirming words to help me continue.  I was fine; this was what labor was supposed to be like.  It was so much harder than I thought anything could be, but it was normal and that knowledge was comforting.

As my contractions got even stronger and the baby got even lower, I decided to try sitting on the toilet.  I had read that many women found that to be a comfortable place to labor and I was going to take any iota of comfort I could find.  Now, I didn’t just sit on the toilet, I laid on the toilet.  I went as horizontal as one could get while still sitting on a toilet.  My head rested on the wall behind me and my feet were out in front of me as far as they could stretch.  During each contraction I grabbed Dylan’s hand and pulled back as hard as I could having him counter my weight.  (He told me later that his thumb had turned purple but good man that he is, he didn’t complain once.)  The toilet became my labor station for some time.  If there was a contraction, I needed to be on that toilet and in my pulling-on-Dylan position.  At one point in the early morning the midwife suggested that she check me once again.  I tried to get up and walk to the bed but as the next contraction started I literally ran back to the bathroom to have the contraction on the toilet.  It was the fastest I had moved in months.

I tried again to make it to the bed so that the midwife could check on my progress.  I made it just outside the bathroom door before another contraction hit.  I remember grabbing Dylan and pressing my weight into his body while thinking “if there were drugs here, I would take them.”  But then I thought, “If I really want drugs, I’m going to have to put clothes on and get into a car.  No way in hell I’m getting into a car.  I’ll be fine.”  That was the only moment that drugs crossed my mind and I am forever grateful that they weren’t available and that no one offered me any.  I understand why people take them, but I was really committed to a natural birth and I am so thankful to have been a facility that encouraged and supported that choice.

During the most intense hour of labor I remembered another bit of wisdom from our birth educator: “When you feel like you can’t do it anymore, it’s probably the transition phase, and you’re probably almost done.” I told myself that as I got back into bed to get checked a third time.  While I had no sense of time, I could see the sun streaming in through the window.  I smelled coffee brewing.  I had labored through an entire night.  I felt a little surge of power.  I had made it at least twelve hours.  Then my midwife looked down and smiled at me, “Now I’ll tell you your progress: you’re at nine centimeters.”  Nine!  I really was almost done.  That little surge of power turned into a wave, a tsunami of confidence.

I went back to the toilet for the final lap of labor.  I started to feel unbelievable pressure getting lower and lower.  With each contraction I felt more and more like I was sitting on a bowling ball.  I just couldn’t believe that I could labor much more without this kid falling out.  I muttered “I think I might be ready to push.”  The midwives had a shift change in the morning, so the new midwife who had taken over filled the birthing tub.  My doula, my partner, the nurse, and I made a small processional to the tub.  I realized this was really happening.  My dream of having a baby was about to come true.

Suddenly the once quiet, almost empty room was all abuzz.  It was still incredibly calm, but it had a sense of aliveness.  My mother came in and sat quietly in the corner.  The nurses prepared instruments and post-birth equipment.  Dylan slipped away quickly to put on his swim trunks in case I wanted his support in the tub with me.   The midwife helped me into the tub and to get comfortable.  Everyone was in their places ready for the show to begin.

I wasn’t sure that I truly had the urge to push but once the midwife gave me the okay I gave a little test push during my next contraction.  With that little test push my body surged into a strong push.  It was a lot like throwing up in reverse: the second you start to push it just takes over your whole body and you can’t help but push.  I gave a few strong pushes and the midwife told me to reach down to see if I could feel anything. When I did I was astonished to have felt a tiny, quarter-sized bit of soft, squishy, wrinkled baby head.  I remember exhaling, looking up, feeling the sun shine on my face, and smiling.

I gave a few more strong pushes before I felt the baby’s head in the birth canal.  I remembered that once the baby had crowned I should stop pushing to avoid tearing.  As I felt the fullness of my baby’s head, I willed myself to stop pushing.  It felt a little like stopping a race car on a dime--nearly impossible--but I slowed the baby’s progress to a screeching halt.  My position in the tub didn’t allow the midwife to have the best view, so I don’t think she saw quite how far the baby’s head had come.  She told me again to reach down and touch the head.  “I don’t need to,” I gasped, “I feel it.”  In a flash her hands were down under me, supporting me as I gave another push.  I felt the head slide out and then in a wave, the rest of the baby slid out into the water.  Dylan scooped up our baby and handed her to me.  I was so surprised that she was out so quickly!  Wasn’t I supposed to push more?  I thought the baby’s head would come out and then I would have to give several more pushes to deliver the rest of the baby.  All I could muster for intelligent conversation was, “We had a baby!”

 IMG_1288

Norah was born at 10:30 in the morning, weighing six pounds, ten ounces, and measuring 18 1/2 inches long.

IMG_1293

After Norah got some vigorous rubs and puffs of air, she started to pink up.  We got out of the tub and delivered the placenta.  Once the cord had stopped pulsing, Dylan clipped the cord.  Our family of three made it to the bed to cuddle.  We tried nursing, but Baby wasn’t super interested yet.  I was so in awe of this beautiful baby that I was completely unaware of the nurse and midwife monitoring Norah closely.

IMG_1297Not long after we got snuggled into bed the midwife told us that Norah wasn’t breathing well enough on her own.  If she didn’t get the hang of it soon, she’d have to go to the hospital.  While I was worried and disappointed at the idea, I remember feeling like “we made it through all of the labor and delivery.  If this is what we need to do, it’s what we need to do.”  The happy post-birth hormones were wonderful.

 Norah did end up being transferred to the hospital.  My partner went with her and spent several hours in the NICU holding her and telling her all about the family she had just joined.  I stayed at the birth center to get cleaned up and to rest.  My pulse rate was really high for hours after the birth so I too was transferred to the hospital.  I had great nurses at the hospital who let me sleep in the baby’s room in the NICU.  One nurse even came to me in the middle of the night to take my vitals so that I wouldn’t have to leave Norah.  I spent the night nursing and cuddling my new, perfect little baby.

 IMG_1290

Although I was sad about being transferred to the hospital and especially about missing those several hours with Norah after birth, I’m glad that our midwife did what was best for us.  Neither of us needed any medical intervention aside from monitoring, and we were sent home the next day.  I am forever grateful that we were able to birth the baby at the birth center and not in a hospital, but I am also thankful that we were taken to the hospital when we needed it.  It will always be a somewhat bittersweet ending to our birth story, but luckily it is just the start of our lifetime with Baby Norah.

I am so grateful for the amazing and empowering birth experience we had.  Sometimes when I’m sitting and nursing Norah I start to daydream about her birth, about pushing her out, and about seeing her for the first time.  It is the single most amazing experience of my life so far.  The fact that I birthed a baby makes me feel fierce.  It makes me feel like I can be a good parent, because if I am strong enough to birth a baby, I am strong enough to face anything that life sends my way.

Birth Story: "The Definition Of Perfection"

The birth of baby Revira

By 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.

Baby Revira was born on August 4th, at 7 pounds, 2 ounces, to proud parents Emily Grace Whebbe and Kai Curry.

Kai had been working late for the last few weeks, trying to get a project done before the baby arrived, and came to bed around 2:00 a.m. I had been sleeping for only a few hours when I woke up for my 3:00 a.m. bathroom trip and noticed that some fluid was dripping out of me...a lot of it. I hurried to the bathroom convinced I was finally having the incontinence issue during pregnancy that I hadn't yet had. I was wrong.

"Um, Kai? I think my water just broke," I said calmly from the toilet. I was more amazed than scared, as if the entire pregnancy I wasn't fully convinced that it would conclude with actual labor. It felt like a science experiment had begun, as if I could say "Hey, Kai, the water is boiling" in a similar fashion.

Kai got out of bed and stopped at the fridge for a glass of water on the way to the bathroom. He sat down on the floor next to me and casually drank the water. "Are you ready?" I asked him. "Maybe you should just go back to bed," he said. I called Cheryl first, one of the midwives at the birth center. She gave me the same advice to go back to bed, monitor any contractions, eat something, take a shower, whatever I needed to do to prepare, but mostly just get some rest. She sounded excited and calming, having a tone of reassurance I had gotten used to throughout the pregnancy. So, I went back to bed.

Contractions started within 10 minutes of hanging up the phone. They were 10 minutes apart, lasting 1 minute. I laid there quietly and let Kai get some sleep. The contractions weren't that painful and I was excited that they were so timely and steady. I knew I'd have a baby in my arms within 24 hours.

By 6 a.m. I felt the urge to get out of bed and start preparing. I ate, took a shower, put in a load of laundry, and packed some last minute things. I politely told Kai, "If you have anything you want to do before we go, now is the time." He answered from bed "15 more minutes." I laughed, but knew he was tired and going into labor with little sleep wasn't going to be a good idea. We laid in bed a minute and my contractions slowed down. It felt so nice to be relaxed, in labor, and in his arms. But then, another contraction hit that was so intense I ran to the bathroom to throw up. Kai took this as a cue to get up as things were getting serious, and we started our birth journey, first by going to my mom's house to drop off our dog. I figured I'd labor there a little bit and get to the birth center around 10 a.m. if things were staying steady. After all, I had a prenatal appointment already scheduled then.

By the time we got to mom's, the contractions were pretty strong. Mom seemed nervously excited. Every 5 minutes or so I'd simply get down on all fours and do some breathing into the rug of choice and then get up and promptly go to the bathroom. I thought to myself, "This isn't so bad, I can just fall to the floor for the next few hours, no problem." However, I soon realized that things were becoming even more intense and I'd soon not be able to make the car ride to the birth center, so we were off. Being in a car during a contraction was the worst, but at least we were only a few minutes away.

We arrived at the birth center at 9:30 a.m. I walked straight into the birthing suite and got on the bed to have a contraction on all fours. Midwife Amy and her apprentice, Sky, were there to greet me. I was excited to show them my progress. I said something to the effect of, "So that's that," after the contraction ended. They smiled and started preparing quietly in the background as I labored. Sky brought me some "Emergen-C" to drink and nurse, Jill, made me some oatmeal. I'd have a contraction and then shove my face with food and drink before another one started.

Emily labors in the bathroom of the birthing center with her partner Kai, before the birth of their daughter, Revira.

Emily labors in the bathroom of the birthing center with her partner Kai.

I went through a few contractions and asked Amy if I could get in the tub. She said she'd rather have me wait a bit to make sure it wouldn't slow my progress to get in there. So I had about five more contractions and asked again. Now, instead of being mostly silent through them, I had begun moaning a bit. Amy said she'd start to fill the tub and I got more excited. I was in the tub for just a short time when I asked if Kai would join me as I wanted something to push against during a contraction. He didn't hesitate, as with the entire birth, he calmly did whatever I or the others asked of him. He was collected and encouraging; completely there for me and baby. Within what felt like an hour, but was probably more like two, Amy checked my cervix as I was feeling closer to wanting to push. She found that it was not fully open on one side and kept her hand there during a contraction to see if she could help it move a bit. It didn't seem to work, but I didn't get the sense that she was nervous. I was totally in my body and couldn't feel any outside anxiety or stress in the room. Everyone was calm and reassuring.

Amy told me that if I stuck my finger in just a little bit, I could feel the baby's head. I hesitated, but put my finger in only about 2 inches. I felt it. How amazing it was to know my body had already brought the baby's head that far! She could have said how far dilated I was, but instead, letting me feel the head made the progress more real, more encouraging that my body was doing exactly what it needed to be doing.

The contractions continued and were painful, but never unbearable. I breathed through them and would take a cleansing breath through my nose at the end. Sky massaged my legs, Kai put pressure on my back. Jill checked my cervix to confirm what Amy had found. Although they didn't tell me this at the time, they realized the baby was "occiput posterior" or "sunny side up," which means she was facing up toward my front rather than toward my back. This position makes pushing a baby out difficult because the very top of the head is against the cervix, instead of the crown, which is smaller. Jill confirmed that although it would take a bit more pushing, my pelvis was able to fit the baby's head through at this angle.

I'm sure some women would have wanted to know all these details during birth, but I'm happy I wasn't distracted with measurements, dilations and technical terms. I like that I was told what I needed to know, and what positions I could try rather than how far dilated or what an occiput posterior baby would mean (four hours of pushing for me!)

Amy asked politely if I could get out of the tub and have Amber, the birth center's resident chiropractor, take a look at my sacrum (my lower back). I was helped onto the bed and Amber laid her hands gently on my back during a contraction. From one contraction she could tell what needed to be adjusted. Kai was standing by my head and held my hand during each contraction. I remember pushing my face into his shorts, which were cool and wet from the tub. I could hear him breathe above all the other noises. In between contractions, I'd try to match his rhythm. I had my eyes closed, but I could feel him looking at me. Most importantly, I could feel his confidence in me, in my body, in our baby, and in the women surrounding us.

Amber adjusted my sacrum with a tool that made a snapping noise, but didn't hurt a bit. It felt great actually, releasing all the tension in my back. A few more contractions and Amy suggested I go to the bathroom to labor on the toilet or in the shower, anything upright to keep baby moving down. After Amber's adjustment, each contraction actually felt like the baby was moving further down. I had no urge to stop, wanting each contraction to come, only getting frustrated when they'd pause for longer than a few minutes. I welcomed them into my body, silently telling my baby to descend with each contraction. The pain and intensity was increasing and I told Kai, "If this isn't transition, I am not sure what is." Nobody seemed to believe me because I wasn't howling or asking for drugs or anything of the such.

It wasn't until everything was done that someone said it probably was transition, looking back. I amazed myself that I could talk through it instead of scream. All the stories we had heard mentioned transition being the time of wanting to give up or give into drugs. Those thoughts never crossed my mind. I trusted my body, and honestly didn't feel like I had time to think about anything else but remaining focused on each contraction and getting this baby out.

I went to the toilet, which was one of my favorite positions to labor. Not only could I go to the bathroom during a contraction (which would happen whether on the toilet or not), but I could also put my head on the assistance bar behind the toilet which was nice and cool. Then I went to the shower and Amy thought it would be a good idea to have a few contractions squatting. I waited for the burn of her head crowning to begin. I asked everyone how long it would be. Not long was all I could gather, but it still felt like it was taking forever to feel her crown. Amanda, another midwifery apprentice, was to my right, Kai to my left. I sat on the birthing stool in between contractions and squatted down during them, leaning my head on Kai's. Everyone continued telling me how amazingly well I was doing. I believed them, and agreed. I felt my baby descending, I felt it starting to burn, and finally I saw everyone put on a new pair of rubber gloves. I knew this meant I was close. Jill asked Kai if she could get him a granola bar, to make sure he wouldn't faint at the sight of things. He accepted.

A few contractions later her head was out and her body slipped out with ease immediately after. I sat on the stool and held her, pink and screaming nicely. She looked amazing and felt warm and soft. I loved it. As soon as I saw her face come out of me, I felt no pain. The rest of the room disappeared except for me, her, and Kai. It was 2:51 p.m., just nine minutes under 12 hours from start to finish.

Kai cut the cord after it was done pulsing. A few minutes later my placenta came out with a lot of blood and I was escorted to the bed to make sure I wasn't bleeding too much. I felt weak and shaky. Oxygen please. Kai lay next to me holding the baby. Thankfully, within a half hour I was stitched up (from tearing), breastfeeding, and laying in a cozy bed, not bleeding too much. I was happy. The baby was healthy and alert, I was healthy, Kai was the perfect companion for labor, and all the staff at the birth center worked together like a finely tuned machine.

We were alone in the room for a bit and Kai said, "I am so glad we had our baby here instead of a hospital." Amy, Amanda, Sky, Jill, and Amber were beyond my most wild expectations of what a birth team could be. They worked quietly in the background, but were there when I needed them. Everything they suggested helped. Everything I told them I wanted was upheld. They had reminded me to breathe through my nose, to push with all my energy toward my bottom. It was as if they were so knowledgeable and respectful of the birthing process that they were actually inside of my body with me. They knew exactly what I needed to do to work with my body in bringing this baby out.

Within six hours of birth, we were headed home to our own bed with our 7 pound, 2 ounce (3.23 kilogram for Kai), 19 3/4 inch baby girl, Revira. My baby sleeping on my chest in my bed was perhaps the best feeling I could have ever imagined. She is perfect, and I wouldn't change a thing about our birth. Thank you Amy, Sky, Amanda, Jill, Amber, Greta, and everyone at Health Foundations; and thank you Kai: of everything we've been through, this is by far the most incredible.

Birth Story: "We all have this maternal power~ we just have to believe in it..."

Meidels_Maternity-925_900

The birth of baby Raina

Contractions started early in the morning on the 27th of November but never gained momentum – in fact, they stopped for most of the day – until Raina’s big sister Elya went to bed. Around 9:00pm then, I finally laid down and decided to get some sleep. The minute my head hit the pillow, however, my contractions started again. You have got to be kidding me, I remember thinking. I laid there for about an hour, trying to rest since they were only about 20 minutes apart, but eventually went out in to the living room to see my husband, Peter.

Once I was there and sitting on the ball, my contractions got stronger and closer together until eventually we thought, “This is it!” That’s when they spaced out again (around 11pm). I felt incredibly frustrated and worried that this “start-stop” pattern would continue throughout the night! Sensing my exhaustion, Peter kept urging me to lie down and sleep, but I knew that if I could just get my little girl’s head in the right position (pressing down on my cervix) I’d be in “real” labor. I therefore started doing squats during contractions, and in no time, was in full blown active labor, throwing up, and calling the midwives telling them “it was time”. This was around 11:30pm.

We got to Health Foundations birth center at 12:45am on November 28th, 2012 and my contractions were 3 mins apart. The minute I walked in and hugged my doula and friend, Aubrey, I started crying, feeling so grateful that she was there and that soon I would be meeting my baby girl! Amy, my midwife, immediately told me to get in the shower. "Why isn’t she starting the birth tub?" I thought, but brushed it aside and got in anyway; and thank God too, because the water felt amazing! My birth mix started playing (which was made for me by my best friends) making the whole scene surreal and emotional. Tears started streaming down my face, and I even managed to sing along to “Wade in the Water” by Eva Cassidy (in between contractions, mind you). I felt such joy and excitement for what was about to happen, it was unreal.

Finally, Amy and Aubrey told me to get out of the shower and try sitting down. There was NO way that was going to happen since Raina’s head was causing too much pressure, making any other position except standing unbearable. I leaned over the bed then, and put my head on some pillows. I squeezed Peter’s poor hand for the millionth time (he was smart and took off his ring this time) and Aubrey massaged my shoulders and neck, which felt amazing since I had pulled some muscles during contractions; again I started thinking, Why isn’t Amy running the water? I know I’ve got to be close. (Amy told me later that she thought I wasn’t even in active labor yet since I was being so “quiet” and “jovial”).

JonnaMeidel_Raina-sBirth_0004_900

Eventually I demanded they fill up the tub so I could get in. I also started telling them that I “couldn’t do this any longer” and that they had to “tell me what to do!” I knew from my actions that I was in transition but didn’t care. I needed my support team to tell me it was almost time to push so I could allow my body to do what it needed to. That’s when my water broke and I threw up again. I knew I was near the end, but since Amy still hadn’t checked my cervix I started doubting my intuition and resisting “the urge”.

JonnaMeidel_Raina-sBirth_0031_900

Once in the water, I immediately relaxed. Amy ‘checked me’ and told me Raina’s head was super low (which I was able to feel!) and that I was ‘complete’. What a relief! I thought. She then told me to start pushing with little pushes if I wanted to so I could ease into the “second stage”. This advice was extremely helpful and allowed me to gradually prepare for the “big push”, which eventually came from a source greater than myself – in 3 minutes then, I had my beautiful baby girl in my arms! I started crying, “Oh my God oh my God oh my God!” and kissing Raina’s perfect little head. Peter was crying too, and we kissed and marveled at the beautiful creation we had in front of us.

JonnaMeidel_Raina-sBirth_0142_900

526813_527687360575787_1666821132_n

Raina was born at 2:23am (7lbs 11oz and 22 inches long) after three hours of incredible and intense labor. It was the most amazing and gratifying birth ever. My first one was amazing too, but this experience had been exactly how I’d wanted it (except for the hope of being able to push without guidance. Nothing is ever perfect with Life.)

308897_588865437791312_730486713_n

I wouldn’t have had the birth of my dreams without Peter, Aubrey, Amy and Amanda (my midwives) by my side. I am also SO thankful that I now have beautiful and gorgeous pictures (taken by the lovely and wonderful Danica) to remind me of how strong and powerful I am. We all have this maternal power; we just have to believe in it, claim it, and trust in it, so we can fully let go in the welcomings of Life.

JonnaMeidel_Raina-sBirth_0278_900

All Photos by Danica Donnelly Photography

Birth Story: "How do you describe the ultimate miracle?"

The birth of baby Maia

by Jaime Fleres-Mizejewski

maiabirth_0052

I’m Late

Like many first time moms, I was fairly convinced my baby would greet the world sometime between 37 and 40 weeks and not a day later.  For some reason, I had it in my head that February 14, our due date, was the absolute last day she might arrive.  This, despite knowing first time mamas often deliver beyond their due dates.

IMG_4937

Week 37 came and went as I racked my brain for additional nesting activities—I’d been off work for weeks and there wasn’t another room to paint, rearrange or clean in the whole house! At this time, my intuition shifted too.  Though I was uncomfortably large (with a rockin' case of pubic symphysis pain) and baby was sometimes uncomfortably active, I had a new feeling she was quite content where she was.  I was unsure she’d ever want to leave her comfortable womb life.  Weeks 38 and 39 came and went.  So did our due date.

IMG_0216Like a slow motion film, the days crept by.  No baby.  Every day felt like Groundhog Day, the same day as the day before… again and again.  At first, I struggled: I was done with winter, done waiting; I was ready to hold my baby, ready to welcome this new chapter of my life.  It was crazy-making to spend every moment of every day prepared for labor and this radical life change to happen at any moment—like knowing an earthquake is going to hit, but not knowing when.

I spent a few days working myself into an anxious mess—I  actually cried through a lunch date, in public, with my hubby.  Nice one, J. I’d hit a low that wasn’t helping anyone and I resolved to forge a new perspective.  So I surrendered.  I simply decided to let it all go—the worry, the desire for control, the expectations, and the detrimental internal dialog.  I stopped telling myself “today is the day,” I stopped expecting labor at any moment, I stopped trying to will labor to begin, I stopped pretending I was in charge.  I just gave my best to surrender and trust in the mystery that is birth.

At about Day 10 post due, we had to start facing the reality that if she didn’t come in the next couple of days, we wouldn’t be able to birth naturally at the birth center.  Though this troubled me deeply, I tried to keep a vice grip on my new chosen outlook.  We had until Thursday February 28 to see if we could get this labor started naturally or we’d be looking at a hospital birth with medical interventions.

Inducing Labor

As of the Friday before, my cervix was showing no sign that labor was coming anytime soon.  We’d spend the weekend taking various natural measures to coax baby into the world (sex, evening primrose oil, taking walks, and acupuncture treatment). No labor.

By Monday morning, my cervix hadn’t changed, so we began the natural induction process.  For 24 hours, I wore a special catheter with two bulbs of water the size of limes pressing on either side of my cervix to help get it to soften and efface (open). The midwives and nurse said that if I opened to 5 cm it would fall out…but it didn’t.  It was an uncomfortable day.

The next morning, Day 12, I was only dilated to 1 or 2 cm, but my cervix had changed some so they removed the catheter and explained the herbal induction regiment I would begin.  This involved taking 4 ounces of castor oil.  The castor oil is meant to irritate the digestive system and so irritate the uterus, ideally prompting the latter into contractions.  I would also be taking some homeopathic medications and an herbal tincture, alternating the two every 15 minutes for 4 hours.

IMG_0247I was very excited and nervous to be starting this induction process, knowing that labor could be just around the corner.  I was advised to take the castor oil with a juice that I wouldn’t mind never drinking again.  I chose grape juice, since the only grape juice I like is called wine.  This combo was like taking a huge swig of motor oil and chasing it with Robitussin.  Yet, I guzzled down the whole concoction like it was a tequila shot and I was back in college.  It could have been worse.  It got worse.  The effect of castor oil is much like the worst food poisoning you've ever had.  Within 20 to 30 minutes or so, I met with something akin to Montezuma’s Revenge and spent much of the afternoon getting better acquainted with my bathroom.  It was quite a prelude to labor.

Early Labor

But it did the trick.  After kicking off the induction process at about 1 pm, early labor contractions began coming every 5 minutes by about 2:30 or 3:00 pm.  Billy and I spent the afternoon in our guest bedroom watching movies.  Well, he was in the guest room and I was mostly in the bathroom.  Labor continued through the afternoon.  At about 6 or 7, we went downstairs to cook a pasta carbonara dinner.  I made much of the dinner, stopping every few minutes to brace myself through contractions, which were still coming pretty regularly but were manageable.

After dinner, we returned to our little labor cocoon upstairs.  I spoke with our midwife, who suggested that I take another dose of castor oil (the opposite of what I was hoping to hear!) but in kindness, she cut my dose in half.  By 10pm, contractions had slowed a little bit, with some coming closer to 7 minutes apart, and I worried labor was waning.  But I kept my spirits up.  Billy and I decided to try to rest a little.

Active Labor

By midnight, labor had shifted from early labor contractions to more intense and frequent active labor contractions.  They were coming every one to five minutes, some lasting a minute, some a little less.  They were much more intense than the earlier contractions and required my focused breathing and vocalization to ride each wave.  Billy, half asleep, offered the verbal support I needed to stay confident and in the moment with each new rush.  Like a narcoleptic running a 100-meter dash, I managed to get through the intense physical exertion of a contraction, pass out for a few moments, and be jolted back into wakefulness with the next wave.   This lasted only a brief time, until I was just up, laboring hard, for the next six hours or so. I did well at staying present for each contraction and preventing mind chatter from adding any suffering to the physical pain.  I was just experiencing and witnessing this awesome primal process.

As morning crept up, Billy called our doula, Greta, and they decided together that this would be a good time for her to join us at the house, since labor was definitely progressing.  Until this point, I’d been laboring solely in the side lying position, which felt good and safe, but I wasn’t sure if it was ideal in getting labor to progress.  I really didn’t want to move, which was surprising since I thought I'd be more active through labor.

When Greta arrived, she suggested we try a few other positions.  We went into our bedroom and I got on the big birth/exercise ball.  I didn’t like being upright at all.  The pressure added by gravity was great and the contractions were more difficult to get through.  My mind began to resist, but I tried to trust that this was helping labor progress.  Since it was morning, we decided the shower might be a good change of positions, though Greta warned that it could bring on harder contractions.  It was hard to stand through contractions, so we brought the ball into the shower.  The shower felt great but labor was really intense so the experience was short.

Afterward, Greta suggested I sit on the toilet and labor there for a while, as it was a good position to keep labor rocking.  I did NOT like this!  It was the discomfort of the ball times ten and I felt too exposed and a little scared.  My mind frantically searched for a way out of this experience.  Something.  Anything.  I tried to negotiate with Greta and Billy—if I could just rest on the bed for a few minutes, I’d promise to return to this godforsaken position if we thought my labor was slowing down.  It worked!

Ah, back to the bed, my safe place. Labor only continued to intensify and I was able to remain in my little cocoon, wrapped in towels and blankets, howling like a warrior woman, with Billy and Greta watching over me.  At some point, maybe around 8am, Billy spoke with our midwife Amy.  Because of Billy’s calm demeanor in the face of nearly any event, he might have under-expressed the state of my laboring.  However, once Amy heard me in the background she likely gained a better idea of our progress.  Nevertheless, she suggested I try to eat something and then we would touch base with them again.   Greta, so kindly, spoon-fed me bites of oatmeal between contractions.  At this point, I remember keeping my eyes closed, totally disinterested in food, feeling utterly exhausted and increasingly nauseous.  In retrospect, I realize I was moving into transition.

Oneness

Whilst feeding me oatmeal, Greta intuitively asked if I was experiencing any strong thoughts or feelings I needed to express in order to move forward in labor.  I thought about it for a moment.  I could feel my dad’s presence very strongly at that time (he is in spirit) and I tried to communicate an ineffable experience.  I commented, “I know this is going to sound crazy, but I don’t just feel my dad around me, in some weird sense, I feel like I am my dad.” This sense of oneness with him makes perfect sense to me—not only were my dad and I really close, but I felt I was experiencing the same utter surrender and need for support in labor that he experienced with his cancer.  I understood him perfectly in that moment.

In the early days with Maia, I also experienced this same sense of oneness with her—like I understood her from the inside and that we were the same person in some way (which I suppose we’d been for quite some time!).  Of course, these oneness experiences all unfolded during the process of my bringing forth a separate being from my single body.  So, in a way it makes sense.  Birth offers a glimpse into the Mystery and an experience of Truth, in this case that we truly are all one, which is often just a pretty concept in my mind.

Transition

Anyhow, labor started to ramp up once again and it felt like my contractions didn’t end—they just went from a ten down to a seven and then back up again.  I was deep in a place within, tapping my inner reserves for all the strength and energy I could muster.  As things got really hazy (And loud!), I experienced something new: pushing.  At least two of my contractions on our guest bed went from “regular” squeezing contractions to all-out involuntary pushing.

“I’m pushing, you guys!” I was surprised and for a moment thought for sure I was going to deliver this baby right there on the bed!  I actually reached down to see if I could feel her head.  It felt that close.

It was really time for us to go.  But that was the very last thing I wanted to do.  The idea of actually getting up and going somewhere seemed ridiculous if not completely impossible.  “Please just call the midwives and ask them to come over,” I begged. They had to come to us; there was just no way I could move.  Despite my certain belief that I was immobile, I had such full trust in Greta and Billy that I complied when they insisted we go to the birth center.  They swore that I could do this.  I had to do this.

During pregnancy, the transition phase of labor made me nervous—I’d heard it was one of the most challenging times in labor, those moments when you were most likely to feel defeated, if not certain you were going to die.  And here I was looking at the prospect of actually getting in the car and travelling to a new place during this phase of labor.  Birth brings you right into your fears, forces you to look them dead in the eye, and offers you a chance to move through them.  When I knew that I needed to go (and go now!) I rallied and did what I needed to do.  I decided that after a contraction subsided a little, I needed to run downstairs and out to the car.  I was completely paralyzed during contractions, so this was the only way it would work.

Greta and Billy somehow dressed me, and I was ready to make a dash.  I only made it to the back door, before a contraction forced me to collapse on the floor for a couple minutes or more.  After it slowed down, I jolted up and ran through the backyard’s bright morning sunshine, hoping to at least make it to the car before another one started.  Just barely.  I jumped in the car, pushed the seat all the way back, and another double overhead transition wave came crashing all around me.  This one lasted, no exaggeration, the entire 5 to 7 minute ride to the birth center.  It just never let up.  I didn’t think, I just howled like mad through the contraction and hoped that the baby didn’t pop out on the floor.  Once we arrived at the birth center, I had a moment’s break to run to the door, through the reception area, into the birth room and on to the bed.  I barely made it.

At the Birth Center

We arrived sometime just before 10 am. Through a hazy half-glance, I saw Jill, our fabulous nurse, prepping to check my cervix.  “Jill, you better tell me I’m at a ten,” I muttered.  She checks and chuckles, “Oh yeah, you are there sweetheart.”  It was time for me to push (some more!).

I had a few more super intense contractions on the bed, as people came in and out of the room, preparing for the birth.  I was happy to see the familiar faces of Amy, Amanda, and Monica, our midwives, and I felt complete trust and peace in the situation.  I was in good hands and right where I needed to be.

Water Birth

maiabirth_0001

They drew a bath and suggested I get in for the pushing part of labor.  I was happy for this choice, as I wanted to deliver in water if it was a good option for us.  Though it felt a little scary to move, I made my way to the tub and got on all fours.  I labored like this for a while, as contractions turned to full force pushing.  Everyone was around me; encouraging me and helping me focus my energy during each intense wave.  Pushing is no joke; it’s like trying to move a mountain.  I resolved to give it every ounce of my strength and energy, giving way more than I ever knew I had.  Like contractions before, I had a good couple minute break to gather my strength in between each pushing wave.

My water broke in this position, and the team told me there was meconium in the water.  Meconium is poop the baby released in the womb, which can impede their airways as they take their first breaths.  Amanda calmly explained that it was going to be okay, they were going to suction her right away to clear her airways and then they’d hand her over to me.

maiabirth_0011I changed positions another two times, once to a reclined position the long way in the tub, with my hands bracing myself up and my legs spread.  (Fantastic birth tub, by the way!) Then, Amanda suggested I get into that same position the short way in the tub, so I could really open my pelvis and bring my legs up.  I was in this position for another half a dozen or so pushes, I think, before Maia was born.  Those last couple of pushing waves were the ultimate finale to labor—I gave everything I could and tried my hardest to push her out quickly but not too fast.  Greta later told me she felt like I had this amazing protective energy surrounding me and that I was in a deep place somewhere slightly removed.  Looking back, it feels like one of those dreams where you are hovering above your body watching things happen to you.

maiabirth_0013

I was able to reach down and feel Maia’s head a few minutes before she was born.  It was indescribable.  I held her, crowning, between a set of pushes, which the midwives said would help my tissues stretch.  I remember my strongest motivator at this moment was Billy—I could hear the joy in his voice as he caught the first glimpses of his daughter and I wanted so badly to give him the experience of seeing her.  It was a selfless and pure wish for him.

Maia is born

maiabirth_0021I pushed her out with the next wave.  Maia was born at about 11:11 am on Wednesday February 27, 2013.  It was an intense physical experience, but I was in the haze.  This haze makes it hard to describe with accuracy what happened next—and so many things seemed to happen all at once.

I remember seeing Amanda holding Maia up by her feet.  Maia was crying.  I didn’t see but I know they suctioned her.  Also, the umbilical cord burst when Maia was born, sending blood all over the place.  They clamped it, and before I knew it she was on my chest.

maiabirth_0027

I don’t know if I have words to describe the feeling of first holding Maia.  I mean, how do you describe the ultimate miracle?  It was pure joy, and awe, and wonder; I loved her instantly and intensely.  She was more beautiful than I could imagine.  I was meeting someone I’d waited my whole life to love.

Little Emergency

But the tub seemed to be getting darker and darker with blood, so they asked me to hand Maia to dad and get out of the tub.  I was still completely in the Birth Fog, so I just followed other’s directions without much thought.  But as soon as I got out of the tub, saw blood pouring all around me, and the flurry of action on part of the birth team, some distant part of me became a bit concerned.  As they helped me to a birth stool, I recall asking if everything was going to be okay, but the Fog blocked true worry from my mind.  I birthed my placenta, but my uterus had a hard time contracting as is necessary to avoid excessive blood loss.  I was bleeding profusely. So I received the full treatment—a couple of injections in my thigh and a gritty pill in my mouth, lots of painful pushing on my belly, buckets being filled with blood and tissue—and after a while, the hemorrhage emergency seemed to subside.  (Thanks to the competence and quick action of the birth team.  Total rock stars.)  This experience scared the bejeses out of poor Billy.

maiabirth_0063

Holding new life

I was helped to the bed and -- after a little more serious pushing on my uterus to ensure the bleeding has ceased -- I got to hold Maia again.  After that, she was really all I could focus on.  I was so exhausted and weak but I just wanted to hold and discover her.  Greta helped me learn how to nurse her and we worked on different holds for a while.  Maia was a fantastic and eager nurser from that very first try.  I am so grateful for that.  Billy and I snuggled in to stare in wonder at our new little love.

maiabirth_0050

The things going on around me are a little blurry in my memory.  I recall Amanda bringing over the placenta and showing it to us (she later encapsulated it for us).  I recall Amy telling me lots of important and helpful information I instantly forgot :).  I remember Greta offering me a tropical tasting drink and more water.  I ate pizza from Pizza Luce.  They gave Maia her first physical exam and she was healthy as could be (though they heard a heart murmur that would resolve itself in a matter of days).  Maia weighed eight pounds exactly and was 20 inches long.  She had a good cry from the start.

maiabirth_0088

I soon discovered another cause of my profuse bleeding—I had torn badly—through my inner and outer labia and a little on my perineum.  Apparently Maia stuck her hand up by her head as she was making her grand entrance and it ripped through my tissues.  Amanda also told me her head had rotated around as she came out of the birth canal, creating a wider space upon passage.  Amy spent at least an hour stitching me up—it took at least 40 stitches to get the job done.  She did a great job. This birth was beautiful but very physically taxing.

maiabirth_0079In all, we stayed at the birth center about 5 hours after the birth.  We left at about 4:30 in the afternoon and headed home.  We had great hopes of sleeping soon, as we were told babies usually sleep 6 to 8 hours at home after the birth.  Well, she didn’t exactly get this message until the next morning.  Eventually, after lots of exhausted activity I cannot really recall, we slept from about 4am to maybe 10am, the longest stint of sleep we’d have for weeks to come.

maiabirth_0097

But alas, our beautiful baby girl is in the world.  We had an amazingly beautiful birth experience and came out stronger than I thought possible.  Billy was so proud of me in the coming days; it was the greatest feeling in the world.  Maia and I did it.  We did it together surrounded in love and support from some truly remarkable people.  It doesn’t get any better than that.  I am so grateful.

maiabirth_0057

Most photos by: EyeSpy Photography

Birth Story: "We Are Stronger Than We Know"

Birth of Baby Viggo | 24 December 2012

By Sarah Bach-Bergs

all of usOur little one was 11 days overdue — it was honestly getting a bit emotionally trying on me. I literally began to think that I would FOREVER be pregnant (not cool — except for the part about forever being able to go to prenatal yoga! Ha!) I was beginning to get worried about many things – like “will I give birth to a 15 pound baby?!” or “will I actually be able to push this baby out if it gets too big?!” or “will I even be able to give birth at Health Foundations naturally or will I have to go into some cold hospital to be induced?!” All of these things were circling my brain. And even though I was very aware of “letting them go” and telling myself that “what will be will be,” I couldn’t help but find myself worrying about these things on a frequent basis.

I also was aware that there is no “right way” to birth but I also was very determined and passionate about giving birth naturally, at a birth center, with those that have been with me through this whole journey. Some things are just hard to let go of or imagine otherwise, even if you hold no judgement on other ways of birthing.

inductionAnyway… our little one DID finally arrive! I gave birth to a BEAUTIFUL BABY BOY on the morning of Christmas Eve — 7:55 a.m. to be exact — at Health Foundations Family Health & Birth Center. Viggo Edison made his grand entrance in the bright, beautiful morning sun weighing in at 9lbs, 3oz and 22 1/4 inches long. Details you say? Well, here’s the birth story, in a nutshell….

On December 22, 2012, my husband Tom and I headed to Maplewood to hit up the Toys ‘R Us. I had a Groupon coupon to use by the 24th and was stressing about getting it redeemed — big time. This HAD to be taken care of TONIGHT! So, we jumped in the car, even though I was having slight contractions, and decided to hit up the most chaotic store in the Twin Cities metro area around the holiday season. If nothing was going to send me into labor – THIS would.

I didn’t think much of the contractions as this had been going on for nearly a week (seriously). My contractions would start in the early evening and proceed, about 5 minutes apart at the least, throughout the night. The past couple of days, the contractions throughout the night were strong enough to wake me up consistently and sometimes labor through them on my hands and knees in bed. However, when morning would roll around, they would either completely stop or they would space so far apart that you couldn’t even really consider it close to “labor” — just annoying little pains here and there throughout the day.

However, while in Toys R’ Us, my contractions got stronger and closer together. They were consistently 5 minutes apart. The longer we spent in the toy store, the closer together they got. Some of them became about 2 minutes apart! I told Tom that if we didn’t leave soon, I was going to give birth in a toy store. We made it to the car, stopping in the parking lot every once in awhile to breathe through a contraction.

When we hopped in the car, I decided that Pizza Ranch pizza buffet was a MUST…NOW. So, I took my vegan husband and vegetarian me to the Pizza Ranch and ate as much pizza (not all vegetarian mind you) that I could. Talk about a last-minute pregnancy craving! Yum. We actually dubbed it my “Pizza Ranch Farewell Tour.” The signal to leave Pizza Ranch – besides having dessert pizza – was when I had a contraction that was so strong I started crying. We decided to head home.

Two brothersWhen we got home, we immediately went to bed knowing that we needed as much rest as possible with things near to the end. “I remember Sarah having a rough night and barely sleeping in between contractions,” said Tom when asked about his interpretation of this stage (literally, I don’t remember this portion of labor AT ALL. I must’ve been in coping mode!)

The next day, December 23, I didn’t even get out of bed until late afternoon. Tom brought me all of my meals in bed and I labored consistently throughout the day. Finally, Tom convinced me to get up and take a walk around the block to get things moving. It was a rough half block. “She asked to stop and go back,” remembers Tom. “But we were already halfway around the block so it was the same distance either way … I just encouraged her to keep going.” We stopped several times and I hung onto Tom as I labored through the contractions. I don’t even want to think about what the cars driving by were thinking as they saw this on the sidewalk!

Around 9 p.m. we called our midwife at Health Foundations and gave her the “heads up” that this might be the “real deal” this time – I just couldn’t sleep. She told me to get an over-the-counter sleep aid, take one, and try to get as much rest as I possibly could. Tom ran to Walgreens to pick up the sleep aid and when he got home, I willingly popped one in my mouth. This did NOTHING for me.

after birth2It was now about 1 a.m. on the morning of Christmas Eve and my contractions were still strong and consistent but not picking up much. I knew that getting in the bathtub historically slowed my contractions down and sometimes nearly stopped them altogether. I also knew that working “towards” the pain was where I needed to go — but I needed a break. So, I ran the bath water hoping to get a tad bit of relief. Sitting in the bath, my contractions continued to get stronger and closer together. They were about a minute and a half in length and about a minute apart. The bath WASN’T giving me a break.

That’s when I knew it was the real deal.

Tom called our midwife and told her where the contractions were at. She indicated we needed to get to the birth center ASAP! Originally, I was hesitant about Tom calling our midwife. I think I was literally in denial about the labor. I also didn’t want it to be a “false alarm,” especially given that it was the night before Christmas Eve! I just kept telling myself I wasn’t close enough yet and it wasn’t time to go in. Yet, laboring in the tub was so constant that it did worry me a bit.

So, we grabbed our packed bags and food and hopped in the car (not before working through many contractions on the way to the car). Once we got to the birth center around 2:30/3 a.m., we settled in, had our midwife check me, called our doula and began “moving.” We walked the stairs, up and down, and walked circles in the yoga studio and tried to move this baby down.

kissyContractions were strong but I felt like prenatal yoga had well-prepared me for the importance of the breath. As a close friend once told me, everything we experience is merely temporary – something we can breathe through. This same friend also had once told me that NOTHING in labor can overpower us, because it IS us. I tapped into this energy frequently throughout my laboring. This gave me strength. I focused on my breath even though I was often reminded by my birth partners (my husband, my doula, my midwives) to SLOOOOW my breath down. This was incredibly helpful in feeling like I had “control” and was opening up. Breath is SO POWERFUL.

I used MANY mechanisms of working through labor – standing with my arms around my husband’s neck and squatting (allowing him to hold my weight), sitting on the birthing stool in the shower with the hot water on my back (helped tremendously with my back labor), facing backwards on the toilet, on the birthing ball (swiveling my hips on the ball felt SO GOOD and reminded me of yoga), etc. etc.

Finally, my midwives decided to check me again at 6:50 a.m. It was decided that we should break my waters as they had not broken yet. I kind of had an emotional break down at this moment in my labor. In my first birth experience with my oldest son Odin, they also had to break my waters and I vividly remember how intense labor got after the baby no longer had water cradling his every move.

I KNEW we needed to move in that direction but it was a lot emotionally to take in. It felt like I was standing at the gates of labor land — filled with both excitement and intense fear of what was to come. I HAD to walk through that gate. I had a little cry; we talked it through — my husband, my midwives and I; and then we did it. We broke the waters. I waited … I waited for the freight train to hit me. But it didn’t happen like I had expected.

dad and viggoMy midwives suggested we get up and move around to get things going. I stood … and didn’t move from there. I experienced intense contraction after contraction after contraction right in that spot. I hung onto the strong shoulders of my dear husband, let him hold my weight, and dropped into a squat with every contraction. I had about 5-10 seconds of breathing time in between each one – and man did I soak up those 5-10 seconds!

Before I knew it, we were headed to the toilet again to labor. After a few “opening” contractions on the toilet, I requested to go to the birthing tub. I got in and had a few really strong contractions there — ones that made me feel the urge to push. I did. I pushed hard. I didn’t remember it being this hard!

I noticed my midwives were doing some “private communicating” via post-it notes. I just focused inward and tried to direct my energy towards baby. My midwives suggested I get out of the tub and onto a birthing stool. I tried to convince them to bring the birthing stool in the tub but I ended up getting out of the water and giving some good hard labor pushes on the birthing stool. Before I knew it, we were headed towards the bed, per the midwives suggestion again (this kind of pissed me off — I DIDN’T want to give birth laying down on a bed. I wanted the help of gravity on my side to bring this baby down, yet there was a part of me that just put trust in my caretakers as not ONCE throughout my labor had they suggested anything I didn’t want to do. I knew there was a rhyme or reason why this was suggested and at this point, I was so OUT of my head and into my body that I didn’t give it much “head thought”).

I got on my back and put my legs up by my shoulders (it kind of reminded me of happy baby pose, but I was not a happy baby!). My doula and the birth assistant helped hold my legs. My midwife was helping push my cervix aside. I pushed and pushed. I WANTED THIS BABY OUT!!! I felt the baby coming out and I never let it stop its descend. I wonder how long I pushed and pushed and pushed for? I didn’t let up. Soon, I felt the crowning and the baby’s head coming out. Once the head was out, my midwives said to flip over on my hands and knees and put my foot up by my hands.  I did this — and my baby was born!

breastfeeding2I heard his beautiful cry echo off the walls of the birth center room. At this point, I still didn’t know the sex of the baby. I felt the umbilical cord between my legs and reached down for my baby. “What is it?! What is it?!” I kept asking. The baby was facing down, towards the bed. I turned it over and saw that big ball sack! A BOY! We had another baby boy!

Turns out, and I didn’t know this at the time, but when I came into the birth center at 2:30 a.m. that morning, I was 5 cm dilated. When they checked me at 6:55 a.m., I was STILL 5 cm dilated. I had not progressed AT ALL. Thank God they didn’t tell me this or I would’ve given up and said “I can’t do it!” (labor math makes complete sense when you’re in labor but is never accurate when your birth story plays out). According to labor math in this case, I’d be laboring forever and never progressing! All that work for nothing?! But, they didn’t tell me and instead just suggested breaking my waters. That means, from 6:55 a.m., when they broke my waters, to 7:55 a.m., I went from 5 cm to holding our baby boy in my arms. In ONE HOUR! Holy man! I couldn’t believe it!

sleeping

On top of that, my baby was born OP or “sunny side up” as they say. His face was facing upwards. We knew he was OP a week before but usually OP babies will turn accordingly during labor. My little guy did not. THIS is why my midwives knew I couldn’t have a water birth — they knew I’d probably have to get on my hands and knees once baby’s head was out — as I did. And convincing me to get out of a birthing tub when baby’s head is hanging out of my vagina probably was going to be harder than anything. To add to it all, once his head was delivered, his shoulders got stuck and they had to help him out. It’s actually amazing to me that he was born with the ease he was given these factors.  I felt blessed that they trusted in me, and me in them to make this labor happen — that I was able to deliver at Health Foundations with the sun shining in the windows that Christmas Eve morning.

My 9lb, 3oz baby boy came into the world with some resistance, but he’s here with us and eats like a banshee! Every hour and a half on average. I’m a milk machine these days.

In the end, like my friend said, NOTHING can overpower us in labor, because it IS us. We are stronger than we know — and THIS may be, ultimately, what scares us. Who are we to be that strong? But, really, who are we NOT to be?