Midwifery

Myths Dispelled About Pregnancy, Labor and Birth

When it comes to pregnancy, labor and birth there is a lot of information out there; some true and some not so true. Between books, Google, family, friends and even many providers there are a lot of myths. For healthy, low-risk women midwifery care is very appropriate as well as out of hospital birth. Statistics show that it is the safest option for low-risk women due to low interventions.

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There are 6 myths that I am going to dispel about pregnancy, labor and birth. These are the most commonly asked questions when a potential mom is inquiring about midwifery care, specifically in an out of hospital birth center. Please note that a hospital that calls their Labor and Delivery Unit a birth center is not in fact a birth center. A true birth center is out of hospital. You will find that in a hospital setting with an Obstetrician many of these topics are looked at quite differently. Midwives and birth centers go by evidence based care.

1st Baby: Many times I hear mamas say '“this is my first baby, I should give birth in a hospital.” The biggest risk factor for having a c-section is the facility you walk into. The same healthy, pregnant woman could have a very different birth experience at three different hospitals with her condition being the same.

Maternal Age: In the world of obstetrics, a woman is considered advanced maternal age after 35 years old. Her pregnancy is referred to as geriatric. As a woman ages, certain risks go up but very slightly. This is no reason to classify a woman over the age of 35 as high-risk. It is natural and normal to get pregnant and give birth to a healthy baby at any age.

GBS Status: At around 36 weeks of pregnancy a test is done with a swab that determines if the mom is GBS+ or GBS-. GBS stands for Group B Strep. This bacteria lives on our body naturally and many times is found in the vagina. If it is, that would classify a mom as GBS+. If you are GBS+ you can still give birth at an out of hospital birth center; it just means extra precautions are taken during labor and postpartum.

Gestational Diabetes: At 28 weeks in pregnancy a test is done to check how the mom is processing sugars. Sometimes women develop gestational diabetes which typically resolves after birth. If the blood sugar comes back from the lab to high, there needs to be changes in diet. Most times through a special diet, blood sugars can be regulated. If this is the case, the mother can give birth at an out of hospital birth center.

Pregnancy Loss: Sadly, many women suffer from pregnancy loss at some point. Most times it is early in pregnancy but sometimes it is not. Whatever your journey is with loss, we are here to support you in your next pregnancy. you can give birth at an out of hospital birth center. Some women take comfort in more monitoring which can be accommodated.

Assisted Reproduction: There are many different ways to help with infertility today. Achieving pregnancy through IVF, IVF-ET, etc. does not mean the pregnancy is high-risk. It is still perfectly acceptable to be seen by a midwife and have an out of hospital birth. Another type of assisted reproduction is insemination or IUI.

This is a brief overview about typical myths. These opinions represent Health Foundations Birth Center practice and may vary from other freestanding birth centers. I will be speaking more on this topic Sunday, September 16th at 10:00am on the MomShow, MyTalk 107.1. Tune in!

If you are interested in having your baby at a birth center, please give us a call and set up a time to come in for a free consultation.

10 Reasons a Birth Center Might Be For You

Photo Credit: Rochelle Matos -  withlove.mn

Photo Credit: Rochelle Matos - withlove.mn

If you’re pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, you may be considering your options for birth. While the majority of babies in the US are born in hospitals, there’s another option available for women who wish to birth in a homelike setting but desire many of the resources and safeguards of a hospital. This option is called a birth center. Birth centers are designed for healthy women seeking a natural birth experience under the care of midwives instead of obstetricians. Midwives embrace the idea that birth is a natural and normal process and should be approached under the wellness model of pregnancy and birth. Birth centers are able to provide routine, woman-centered care that focuses on the natural, physiological process of birth and seeks to minimize unnecessary interventions. While birth centers are not equipped for emergency medical procedures like C-sections or other serious complications, they are typically located in close proximity to a partnering hospital for quick transfers when necessary. If you are hoping for a natural birth experience in a non-medical environment yet under the care of licensed midwifery professionals, a birth center may be for you. Here are 10 reasons you should consider delivering at a birth center.

  1. You’re hoping for a natural, intervention free birth: At birth centers, pregnancy and childbirth are seen as natural and normal events. Midwives seek to empower and support women in doing what their bodies were created to do without unnecessary intervention. According to the Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health, the rate of C-sections for low risk births is only 6 percent at birth centers in comparison with 27 percent of low risk births in a hospital setting.
  2. You want to have a midwife instead of a doctor: Midwives are uniquely positioned to provide personalized care to mothers during pregnancy and birth that not only focuses on physical health, but also emotional, spiritual and mental wellbeing. Midwives are trained professionals that support women in having optimal pregnancies and birth experiences with minimal medical intervention. Births that are attended by midwives tend to have lower rates of C-sections, episiotomies and perineal trauma.
  3. You believe hospitals are for sick people: If you are hoping to bring your baby into the world in a more homelike environment but you want the expertise and resources of skilled professionals, a birth center may be for you. In many countries around the world birth is not seen as a medical event at all but a natural, normal experience in life. Birth centers offer many of the safeguards and equipment of a hospital without the medical environment.
  4. You want to have a water birth: Though some hospitals do offer the option of a birthing tub, it is more commonly available at birth centers. Laboring and delivering in water has many benefits from pain relief, improved cervical dilation and a soothing transition for baby from womb to world.
  5. You want to be able to eat and drink during labor: While most hospitals will restrict your intake during labor due to the risk of needing general anesthesia for a C-section, most birth centers encourage you to nourish yourself as needed to keep up your energy and stamina.
  6. You want to save money: While you should check your insurance policy to confirm benefits and birth center coverage, delivering at a birth center is typically less expensive than delivering at a hospital. Reasons for the difference in cost include a shorter length of stay and fewer interventions among other variables. Typically, your out-of-pocket cost at a birth center will be about a third less than that of a hospital birth. 
  7. You do not want to have continuous fetal monitoring: While your midwife will likely intermittently monitor your baby, you will not be hooked up to a fetal monitor for the entirety of your labor like you may be at a hospital. This enables you to move about freely throughout your labor to the positions that offer the most relief and comfort. You also will not have to worry about any invasive internal monitoring or unnecessary cervical checks. 
  8. You don’t want to deliver on your back: Midwives are typically more flexible in encouraging the mother to birth and labor in whatever position her body tells her she should. Laboring and delivering on your back has been found to be one of the least conducive positions to helping baby move naturally through the birth canal. 
  9. You don’t want to feel rushed: In a birth center you will be encouraged and supported in laboring as long as your body needs. Rather than hastening the labor process with interventions, midwives embrace the natural normal process of childbirth in which you place trust in your body to know what it needs to do and at what pace.
  10. You want your family (or friends) involved: While a hospital may limit the number of individuals allowed in the room for your birth, at a birth center you will be welcome to have whomever you feel you need to support you in your birth experience. Birth centers will often involve the family during prenatal appointments and during labor realizing that the birth of a new baby is a family experience to be shared.

If you are a healthy woman experiencing a normal pregnancy and feel that a birth center may be more in line with your hopes and plans for natural birth, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center. We are here to support and empower you from pregnancy to postpartum and beyond.

 
 

Fashionably Late, But Worth the Wait

The birth of baby Afton

By Mandi Crawford Morgan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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!”

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

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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.

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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.

Welcome to the Health Foundations blog

A blog is born! Greetings and welcome to Health Foundations’ new blog!  We are thrilled to create this virtual gathering place—a space for you to gather information, support, and resources during the childbearing year and beyond.

Here we will offer:

  • information about preconception, pregnancy, birth, babies, postpartum, and parenting
  • news about community and Health Foundations events
  • birth stories
  • insight from experts in the birth world
  • recipes
  • pictures
  • and much more

This blog is for and about YOU—our amazing Health Foundations families—we invite you to share with us your birth stories (and pictures!) as well as other stories about your birth and baby adventures.

We also welcome feedback—what would you like to see shared here?  What are your burning questions about pregnancy, birth, and new parenthood?

Please feel free to contact Jaime at Jaime@health-foundations.com with your questions, stories and feedback.

Thanks, come back and visit us again soon!

469755_10150978476250734_504943501_oPhoto by Gwendolyn Waite Photography