Great Expectations: Pamela’s Birth Story

39 weeks and 4 days.  I had what I think was my first contraction around 7:15am while I was cuddling in bed with my boys.  I didn’t necessarily believe it was a contraction since up to this point I had had three nights of contractions that went from about 2am until 3am and then stopped.  The day before I went into labor I felt terrible; my body ached, I was in a tough place emotionally, and I truly thought I was going to be pregnant forever.  After I got out of bed I went about my morning trying to keep time on my contractions.  I called Thad around 8am and told him I had a few contractions but I couldn’t keep track of their pattern; they were somewhere between 10-15 minutes apart but not consistent.  He said he was going to leave the office right away but I told him I wasn’t sure if this was it.  He said he’d rather be home than miss anything so he came home.  I was standing in my kitchen trying to keep track of my contractions by my last made calls/texts to my husband, doula, and midwife.  By 8:45am my husband came home and he asked his mom to stay home in case she needed to take the boys out of the house.  I remember walking to the bathroom (I was making very frequent trips to the bathroom that morning which was a good indicator that I was truly in labor) around 9am and had to hang on to my dresser to get through a contraction.  My midwife, Marilee, called to check on me and said she was on her way and my doula texted me to tell her when we needed her help.  Around 9:30am my friend, Amanda, came by to pick up the cookies for our cookie exchange that morning and my mother-in-law was getting the boys and dog into the car and I had a long, intense contraction that had me on my knees hanging on to the banister with tears in my eyes.  Active labor began!  Dash, my younger son, was very concerned seeing me in pain and I was grateful that they would not be there for labor despite my initial wants of having them in the house for labor and/or the birth.  I wouldn’t have been able to concentrate on labor if they were there.  I remember Marilee walking into the house while I was groaning through a contraction and I heard her say, “Those are good sounds,” and it finally occurred to me that this kid was going to be born that day.  It was around 9:45am.

I made it downstairs in between contractions to see Thad busy at work filling the aqua doula (birth pool), Marilee setting up supplies, and I helped by setting up my iPod for music (I will post my labor/birth playlist soon) and setting up my diffuser (I used doTerra’s Balance blend for grounding).  I was having a hard time getting comfortable through contractions because I couldn’t quite tell where I was having pressure.  Was the pressure on my bottom or my perineum or my back? I couldn’t tell, so I couldn’t figure out what position to be in for maximum comfort as I worked through my contractions.  All I knew was that I did not want to be standing up, so I tried being on all fours (which was tolerable) or sitting on the toilet and/or the birthing stool (which was more tolerable but not perfect).  I even tried hanging off the corner of my sectional but it was not quite right.  My doula, Mary Beth, arrived around 10:15am and she jumped right in and helped ground me through my contractions.  She helped me relax and used essential oils (we used Iris Oils 4 pack for childbirth) for scent and massage.  Thad sat behind me to hold my shoulders down during contractions (so I wouldn’t tense up) and Mary Beth sat in front of me between my legs.  They took turns feeding me pineapple and/or pomegranate seeds and giving me sips of water to keep me hydrated.  I felt encapsulated in love.

Around 10:45am after I went to the bathroom I stood there crying.  In pain, I cried worrying about whether or not my son would love me.  In retrospect, I realize this irrational worry was a sign of transition, and apparently so did everyone in the room because Marilee, Thad, and Mary Beth held me in the bathroom as I cried.  When I got out of the bathroom I complained that I couldn’t get into a comfortable position and Marilee wisely suggested the aqua doula.

Once I lowered myself into the pool I had instant relief.  I can’t believe I didn’t have a pool with all my babies!  The water was warm, soothing, and I instantly felt like it lifted everywhere I was feeling pressure. The counter-pressure was so helpful in managing the pain, it was just amazing. We labored in the pool as the contractions became stronger – at this point I was still able to talk or joke a bit between them; I distinctly remember joking with the birth team over my husband’s dismay when Celine Dion came on the playlist.

The period for talking soon ended – the break between contractions was shortening and the contractions themselves were getting much stronger. I remember asking Marilee why I wasn’t getting a break, and what I should be doing, and she kept saying, “You’re doing it.” Sometime around noon I was really working hard – I remember feeling tired for the first time, and concerned about how long the labor would take – would I still have the energy to push effectively at the end? Mary Beth kept me hydrated with water and Gatorade, and I continually sought positions that would relieve pressure from my back. I remember leaning back with my husband’s hand supporting my back, leaning back in an almost hurdler pose with one leg extended, squatting upright and swirling my hips, and finally shifting to all fours in the pool, which would become my final birthing position.

At one point well into active labor, I asked if there was anything for pain relief, and after a brief silence, Marilee replied “You’re sitting in it.”

In retrospect, now I know the various positions and movements were all what Simon needed me to do to safely enter the world. While I was deep in active labor, I had to release the negative thoughts that spun through my head. I questioned whether I had done enough. I had thoughts of being ill prepared, of his size, of my abilities to actually get him out, of possible rupture, and I realized I was at a point of no return, and in releasing those thoughts, I started to unintentionally push. My midwife does not normally dictate pushing; she allows the body to do what it needs to do. With Dash’s birth, she told me when to push because she saw that I was getting tired and needed to help me focus. This time, my body just did what it needed to do, and unbeknownst to both my husband and me, I was pushing.

I noticed Marilee was behind me by the pool, and Leigh Ann (her assistant) was holding tools of some sort. I had no concept of time at this point – I don’t know exactly when I began to push, or for how long I pushed. I don’t know if it’s because I was in the water, or because the bag of waters was intact, but I had no idea how close he was to being born. I remember Mary Beth asking my midwife if she “catches in the water,” (she does) and it hit me that we were going to meet him soon. It’s a crime that in some places women have to get out of the tub to deliver – I can’t imagine how hard that must be.

My groans became grunts, and bearing down with each contraction became instinctive. Whatever people say, you truly poop a baby out. The sensation is low and deep, and no other sensation can be compared to it other than pooping.

Thad was in front of me, supporting my weight and helping me focus. His strength and faith in me took away any fear I had in pushing. It started to burn up towards my clitoris, and I still had no idea where he was. My midwife never told me how much she could see, but in watching the birth video, he was beginning to crown. My midwife put her hands on me to help guide him out, and when she touched me, I was afraid that I was going to suck him back up into my body. When I watched the video and saw the moment she touched me, I didn’t realize just how close he was to being born.

I was pushing and Marilee told me that my bag of waters was intact, that there was a lot of vernix in there, and that his head was almost out. Thad told me that the time to slow down (to prevent tearing) was coming, but all I could feel was pressure and stretching – I didn’t realize his head was already out. It took my doula and husband telling me that his head was out before I grasped, emotionally and physically, that he was about to be born. My sac was still intact at this point and Marilee asked if I wanted her to puncture it – I told her to do whatever would relieve some pressure. On his way out, she made a small puncture to help him glide out.  I don’t know if other women who birth in water have felt the same way, but I truly had no idea how much he was out at each contraction.

While waiting for the next contraction, I felt stretched to the absolute max, and Thad and I maintained steady eye contact to help me stay open. It was during the next contraction that he was born – I was still bearing down and pushing when I heard Marilee say, “He’s out – reach down and take your baby – be careful, his cord is short.” I couldn’t believe that I was actually pulling him to my chest. I rested him on my breast, he let out a cry, and the flood of emotions completely overwhelmed me. What broke my trance was Marilee saying to me, “You just birthed a direct OP baby.” For those of you who don’t know what that means, he was posterior, sunny side up, and he came out gently, which is extremely unusual for babies in that position. In fact, part of the reason why Julian was born by cesarean is because he was posterior.  Despite all the work I was doing to get him into optimum birthing position, I think his short cord was the reason he kept spinning into posterior. It just goes to show you, babies have their own plans.

Once he was born, we completed all the particulars – getting out of the pool, cutting the cord, prenatal exam, passing the placenta (which took about 45-50 minutes), and of course ordering some pizza. The entire birth team was in high spirits, the sun was still up, and they would be home in time to have dinner with their families – Simon Edgar Winston Lurie was born at 1:06pm. He was 7 lbs. 5 oz. and 21 inches long.  ”Edgar” is for my father.  Simon was born on the 11th anniversary of his passing, which was also our original due date.  I couldn’t think of a better way to honor my father.  ”Winston” is our street name since he was born in our family room. 

We had the obligatory family text and Facebook post, and by 4pm it was just the three of us, snuggling on the couch and soaking up every moment of our perfect birth and perfect son.  By 4:30pm the boys came bounding into the house to meet their new brother.  The postpartum period has been an emotional roller coaster and I will use my next post to talk more to postpartum care and healing.  For now, I will return my arms to my little 3-week old babe waiting for mama’s milk and snuggles.  Life is good.

A Birth Story — Cara & Baby Vivian

On the night that I finally went into labor, I was 40 weeks and 6 days and had been having contractions about 10 minutes apart for about 36 hours. I also had three previous episodes of what I thought was the beginning of labor that later stopped. To say that I was ready to meet my baby is an understatement! Between 9 and 11 that evening, my contractions were uncomfortable and noticeable, but not very painful and never any closer than 8 minutes apart. Around 11 pm, however, things started to pick up, both in pain and frequency. I had to get into a variety of positions, breathe and vocalize through each one. After a handful of contractions like that, my husband and I thought it best to call our doula, our babysitters and our midwife. I had guessed that my contractions were about 5 minutes apart, but after watching me, my husband said they were more like 3 minutes. (I had no idea; by that point, I could not focus on a clock.) We agreed that it was definitely time to go to the hospital. Amazingly, I had the awareness (in between contractions) to pack my kids’ backpacks for school, email a friend to cancel a playdate scheduled for the next day, and grab a plastic bag and towel for the car ride — just in case.

The car ride to the hospital was an experience I’d rather not repeat in this lifetime. I knelt in the back seat, feeling every twist and turn and dealing with contractions by bracing myself against the seat back, breathing and moaning. When we arrived, we entered through the emergency room since it was after hours. I remember passing by a handful of people while wearing my nightgown, hugely pregnant and clearly in active labor. One woman congratulated me. Upon entering, I told the admitting nurse that I would not be riding in a wheel chair to labor and delivery — there was no way I could manage contractions while sitting in a chair! On the way to L&D, I had about 4 contractions. Each time, I would stop, close my eyes, drop to the ground, try and breathe (though it was getting tough), and vocalize.

When we entered the delivery room, it was dim, there was just one or two nurses and everyone was speaking to me very quietly and respectfully. My assigned nurse was someone who enjoyed assisting women birthing naturally (yay!) and was so accommodating to my state of labor. My doula arrived shortly after we got into the room. Per protocol, the nurse wanted to perform a vaginal exam (which I was ok with since I too wanted to know my progress) and get a few minutes of fetal monitoring. Because my contractions were coming hard and fast, we timed the exam in between a contraction so I could lay down and then quickly get back up to prepare for the next contraction. She checked me and revealed that I was 4-5cm. What?? I was sure that, based on the intensity of my contractions, I would be closer to 7 or 8cm. As soon as I stood back up after the exam and had another contraction, I heard a snapping sound and my water broke with intense force, all over the hospital floor. I clearly remember thinking, “Gross, what a mess!” While the nurse finagled with the fetal monitors around my belly to get a clear reading of the baby’s heart rate, I climbed onto the bed to try and better cope with the next contraction. I knelt on the bed and asked my doula and nurse to raise up the back of the bed so I could have something to brace myself against. During this time, my doula and nurse attempted to comfort me by providing counter pressure and rubbing my back — nothing felt good and I quickly asked them to stop. I was at the point in labor where I didn’t want anyone touching me! After a couple of contractions, I felt pressure and a slight burning. I told my nurse, “I think I’m ready to push!” The nurse, who had been monitoring the baby’s heart rate and was still entering my information into the computer, lifted up my skirt (I had changed into my Binsi labor skirt upon arriving) and saw that the baby’s head was in fact crowning!

At this point, the only people in the room were my husband, my doula and the charge nurse. My midwife was still on her way (she was coming down the hall, I later found out). When my nurse saw that baby was crowning, she quickly left the room and brought back a team of people, including my midwife. There was a flurry of activity and the atmosphere in the room was serious but energized. I was slightly aware of what was happening in the room, but mostly focused on what was happening with me. As the baby descended, I could tell that I needed to provide more room as it felt like she was hitting my pubic bone. Still kneeling, I lifted out my right leg (modified Captain Morgan pose, ha!) to open up my pelvis. As she started to further emerge, I instinctively reached down to support my perineum (and because it hurt!). What I felt was not what I expected to feel — a gooey, mushy, round protrusion. I guess I had expected it to feel more solid. After her head was out, the midwife reached in to unwrap the cord from around her neck — yeowch, that did not feel nice! Shortly after, with a few more pushes, she was fully out. The relief was immediate and amazing. Since I was facing away from the midwife, she handed the baby to me through my legs so I could hold her for the first time. As I reached to grab her, all I could think to do was to find out the gender — no one had yet said anything about the baby being boy or girl. When I saw that she was a girl, I announced it to the room and sat in complete shock! My husband and I both thought that we would be having our third boy. She was not yet crying and took a little while to make noise, but she soon started wriggling and worked out a cry. The midwife and staff were respectful of my wishes to hold her skin-to-skin and allow the cord to stop pulsing before clamping. When they finally did take her to perform some extra suctioning (the birth was so fast, she had a lot of extra fluid in her), the nurse asked about diapering and wrapping her and I declined — I wanted to see and hold all of her, not a little burrito blanket baby! Everyone in the room was SO accommodating to every last one of my requests, down to the littlest detail like bringing our own baby wash for her first bath; no one showed any attitude or made me feel like someone else was calling the shots. It was awesome.

To get an idea of just how fast this whole experience was — we were checking into the delivery room at 12:50 am and Vivian was born at 1:16 am. It wasn’t until we were moved to a recovery room that I had time to digest what had just happened. I was elated that I was able to have the low intervention and med-free experience that I so longed for, and I was so pleased with how I was treated by everyone in the hospital. At the same time, the way in which the birth scene played out was intense and at times, a little scary. I won’t lie — when I was upright and pushing, I was frightened at the warp speed timing of everything. It was like a freight train with no brakes — there was no stopping the process! Now that I’ve had a week to reflect on the experience, I am just so happy. Birth is definitely a mix of preparation and luck, and thankfully, I had both on my side.


Healthy Birth Around the World: Vancouver, Canada

It was 1978. I was pregnant and 25 years old. I was one of a group of health conscious young people creating a simple, natural lifestyle. We chose to birth at home. I had attended a few friends’ births and they were magnificent. At that time, in Canada, doctors were attending home births and midwifery was not legalized. Shortly after my son’s birth, doctors were prohibited from attending home births.

In early March 1979, a couple of weeks after my estimated due date, labor started. I had a friend visiting who would go on to study midwifery. She had to leave the next day, so that night I had a serious conversation with my unborn child saying that in no uncertain terms he/she had to come NOW. At that moment my waters burst with such force the futon I was sleeping on was soaked through. I was so excited, shouting to my friend who was sleeping soundly, “My water broke, my water broke!”

I called my sister at 1 a.m. to let her know what had just happened. In a sleepy voice she asked, “Are you having contractions?” I said no. Her response was, “Go back to bed and I’ll come over in the morning!”

My sister was a pro at this (I thought) having had two children, one in hospital, one at home, which I also had been at. We had practiced Lamaze breathing in preparation for my birth. I had done little else and had not read any birth books. I was sure that the breathing would aid me in staying relaxed. My sister was my doula. Also involved were 2 lay midwives and my kind elderly doctor (who would show up much later and drink tea downstairs).

During the night not much happened. I was too wired to sleep so walked the hall, tried the bath, but didn’t like it. Labor picked up by 7 a.m. My sister arrived with my 5 yr. old nephew. Later the midwives came to check in and stayed from that point on.

I didn’t want to move very much. I likened myself to an animal that seeks to labor undisturbed in one place. Mine was my bed. My sister sat behind supporting me. She had me do the different types of breathing we had practiced for each stage of labor. I found myself focused inward, deeply in touch with the waves that flowed over and in, out of me. I needed complete focused concentration as a wave was gathering strength through me, aware of my breath, in, out, in,

 out, until it subsided.

I know I must have gotten up to pee but I recall being on that bed, very still, with eyes closed, in an altered state until the birth! I was consumed, drawn into a timeless space, riding out the never ceasing ebb and flow of labor waves. Like surfing a tsunami! I rarely spoke or acknowledged those in the room, barely aware of the “outside.” At the times I did open my eyes, it was like seeing a snapshot – click – my nephew at the bottom of the bed staring at me, click – the midwives sitting quietly, click – my friend silently standing beside my bed.

After being fully dilated for some time my doctor appeared beside me and gently said to push as if I had a big bowel movement. I wasn’t feeling strong urges. There had been a moment where I wondered what was happening as I noted the midwives looking on with some concern in their eyes.

Once my doctor gave me this instruction I went ahead and did just that – mustered all my strength and pushed with everything I had. After 32 years, I still remember that sensation of my son slipping out of me. Before that was the burning searing ring of fire. In my mind the thought formed “I am ripping wide open” (I didn’t have any tears). I yelled out at the moment my son entered the world. He slid out wet and bloody onto the bed.

My parents had been called earlier when we thought that the birth was imminent, but as it took longer they arrived just at the moment of birth. They stepped into the room and were overcome by the sight! My Dad proceeded to thank my doctor avoiding looking at his naked daughter. My doc, gotta love him, said, “Don’t thank me, thank your daughter!” My mom sat down next to me and I squeezed her hand so tightly, all the while saying “I am so happy, I am so happy, look at him, look at him.” I was on a high. Giddy. I buzzed. I hummed!

I wanted to put him in a bath immediately after birth. He unfolded exactly the way I had seen it in Dr. Frederick Leboyer’s book. His hands uncurled, his body relaxed totally and he floated peacefully just loving it.

My doctor told me that his head had been asynclitic (turned to one side) and that was why I hadn’t felt strong urges to bear down. My son did have a very long “cone head.”

My birth experience was not one of pain. It was intense requiring my full attention. I felt it as powerful surges, all encompassing. I know my son’s birth inspired me to become a doula. I hoped that other women could enjoy their birth experience as I had.  As Sheila Kitzinger says it’s something we actively do and exalt in.

Post birth, my journal entry: The birth. Intense. Hard. Panic. Perseverance. Will. Strength. Tired. So total. Keep pushing. Keep going. You can’t stop even if you want to. There’s no place to run to, no escape. You have to use ALL of you. It seems like my whole life was brought together in 15 hours. I guess that’s what it’s all been for.

Debra Woods

Vancouver, Canada

Birth & Postpartum Doula, Childbirth Educator

Healthy Birth Around the World: Beijing, China

On Monday, January 18 at 3pm, Andrew and I gave birth to Roran, a beautiful 8 pound boy. All is well, there were no complications, and we have returned home to rest. Mom, dad, baby, brother and sister are delighting in the new dynamic of our family, and still soaking in the buzz of the experience we have just had. Below is our birth story.

After 42 full weeks of pregnancy, Andrew and I decided to employ acupuncture and Chinese herbs to encourage labor on Sunday, January 17. By 9 p.m. that night we were checking into the hospital and getting settled in our room with regular contractions about 7-10 minutes apart.

The children were thrilled with the hospital’s luxury birthing suite and big screen television, and we all stayed up until 2 in the morning watching Fiddler on the Roof. After a few hours of rest, by 7 a.m. Monday morning we were in the labor pool. The sensations were becoming more intense and quite frequent. Getting into the water was the most wonderful amelioration of “pain,” and after lighting candles in the room and putting on music, we stayed in the birthing pool until 11 a.m.

Despite the water feeling wonderful, I had not “progressed” and dilated, so we got out of the pool and headed back to the room to walk the halls and get a change of scenery. Contractions slowed down, and at 1 p.m. there had been no change in my cervix. The hospital’s staff started to exchange worried glances, whispering in the corner.

I should add at this point that although we explained to the hospital the type of natural birth we were looking for, the doctors and nurses were very worried about all sorts of fatal and other nasty possible complications that might arise from my having two previous c-sections. They were not pleased that we had refused all tests and scans, and we went in as infrequently as possible to let them take my blood pressure and chart my weight gain. It is only Andrew’s impeccable Chinese (both vocabulary and cultural understanding) that allowed us to decline each and every ultrasound, blood test and inspection, while still being allowed to show up and birth a baby.

It is no surprise at 1 p.m. I was offered drug intervention, and while refusing their suggestions, I have to say I started to become a little scared and worried. The sensations were fairly strong and yet it sounded like labor was not progressing in a quick manner, and I began to think of how easy it was to birth Niame and Ian. After preparation and surgery with the first two children, an hour and-a-half elapsed and I had a baby in my arms. I definitely began to question my desire for a natural, drug free birth this time around.

I stood up after the doctors left the room, and the sensations changed immediately. The intensity hit the roof, and all Hypnobirthing breathing techniques that I had learned were mostly thrown out the window. We asked for the birthing tub to be refilled, and I swirled my hips like a belly dancer for a good 40 minutes before the water was ready.

We got into the water, and immediately my body was pushing everything downward. It wasn’t like the movies; I was kneeling up in the water and my body and gravity did all the work. Within 10 minutes of being in the birthing pool I could feel the baby’s head, and we called the doctors. They couldn’t believe I had gone into the final stage of labor so quickly, and thought we were a little crazy when we said the head was crowning. Within an hour of entering the water, the baby was in my arms.

Andrew caught the baby, as I decided to stand up in the tub to birth him. Andrew cut the cord, weighed the baby, did all the diagnostic procedures, and when we left the hospital that morning, we realized that not one nurse or doctor ever put a finger on our child. We managed to show up and use the facilities and birth our boy naturally, without intervention, medicines, shots or tests, leaving a room full of Chinese hospital staff stunned watching the experience.

The children were present throughout the process, Ian filming the birth and Niame taking still photos. It was the most intense 24 hours that I have experienced in my life, and yet I woke up this morning and effortlessly dressed my baby and carried him out of the hospital and into a taxi to head home. Now that I reflect again on the “ease” of the cesarean I had with Ian and Niame, I remember that for three weeks following I hobbled around, barely able to bathe or cook for myself, with layers of abdominal sutures that rendered me mostly immobile.

After the birth, although a bit tired, I was fully functional and couldn’t believe that less than 24 hours before I was experiencing something more powerful than I had ever known.

Not knowing the sex of the baby ahead of time, we had three names typed out on paper to hand to the office when it was time to take care of paperwork. Andrew was left to make the final decision since he had always dreamed of naming a son Damien Michael, and it was only because of my loud protests that we spent 10 months looking for boy name alternatives.

Baby boy was born with blond red hair, and for the moment, grey blue eyes. To Andrew’s dismay the one thing he didn’t look like at all is a Damien.  Roran is sleeping and eating well, and has already blessed us with a basket of diapers to wash. He is bundled up in all the clothes that have been waiting folded in tiny little piles for his arrival, and the children just can’t get enough of him. He smells amazing, and makes sweet little sounds with his mouth.

We are truly blessed and happy.

A Birth Story: Meg & Baby Reese

I had been experiencing increasingly frequent Braxton Hicks contractions for a week and a half before I went into labor.  I often wondered if it was the real thing, but I relied on what my midwife had told me “When it’s the real thing, there will be no doubt about it.”  Even so, I would get excited every time I would go on a walk and the contractions would increase in frequency.  When I lost the mucus plug on December 21st I was convinced it would be that day, until I read McCutcheon’s book that said losing the mucus plug was the most uncertain signs of early labor.

By the 26th, I was convinced I would never go into labor,  even though my due date wasn’t until the 28th.  That day I visited Monticello with my family, and felt wonderful despite the hour and a half drive each way and all the walking.  When we got home that night, I went into labor.

My contractions started at 10:30 pm, just as my husband, Brian, turned off the light to go to sleep.  I was fairly certain from the first one that this was the real thing, so I started timing them immediately.  They felt different from Braxton-Hicks contractions, because they did actually hurt a little.  They started out 5 minutes apart, which surprised me.  I had expected them to start much farther apart than that.  At 11 pm, I felt my water break just a little, and hurried to the bathroom.  It was just coming out a little at a time, so if I leaned forward or to the side on the toilet more would come.  I grabbed a towel, and went back to bed, remembering Bradley advice and advice from a friend that if contractions start at night to try to sleep.  Over the next half hour, the contractions became a little more intense, like a stomach cramp, and more of the amniotic fluid leaked out.  After going to the bathroom again at 11:30pm, and getting a rush of fluid, I decided I couldn’t sleep and it was time to wake up my husband, Brian.  He was very excited and called our midwife, Leslie, to warn her that I was in labor even though we weren’t coming in for a while.  When she talked to me, I told her my symptoms and she warned me that since my water had broken, the contractions were likely to become much more intense very quickly since that usually sends women into active labor.  She said that was the most difficult stage for most women to get past without drugs.  At the end of the conversation, she asked if I had had a contraction since being on the phone, and I said yes.  They were still not strong enough for me to need to make noise, so she couldn’t tell.

After setting me up with water, ginger ale (at Leslie’s instructions), and my mother-in-law, Brian went to pack up the car leaving me to walk around the pool table.  My contractions were becoming much more intense, and I found that standing was my favorite way to take them.  I spent about an hour walking around the pool table, then I went in to take a shower to try to relax more and to get cleaned up.  I was able to blow dry my hair, but when we timed the contractions, they were less than two minutes apart!  We didn’t know what to do, because I was still at the excited emotional signpost but the contractions were awfully close.  We decided we had better go to the hospital, even if that meant being there for too long.  Brian told his parents to get to the hospital around 4:30 am.  As we drove out of the driveway at 1:30 am, Brian had left the back door to the car open, and I bust a gut laughing.  I felt like a bad Bradley student, but didn’t know what else to do.

As it turned out it was a good thing that we left when we did.  By the time we got up to the maternity ward, I was very serious about having a baby and being on the external fetal monitor felt like torture.  The nurse asked me questions and made me sign forms, even though we were pre-registered and I was in no condition to be signing anything.  As soon as I was done on the monitor, Leslie came in and checked me.  I was dilated 7 cm, was 100% effaced, and the baby was in a +1 station!  I rolled out of bed and immediately went to the toilet.  I had found on the car ride that I had an easy time relaxing my shoulders and back when I was sitting.  Leslie advised that I sit backwards on the toilet, which I did, then she left us to it.  She said we looked like we were doing fine and waited for us in the room for whenever we needed help.   I really started to enter a fog at that point, and was just focusing on relaxing, making low noises, and resting.  After a while I had had enough of the toilet, and decided I wanted to lie on my side on the bed.  Even now, I’m a little surprised that I wanted to lie down, because it wasn’t anything I had planned on doing, but it felt good in the moment.

Early into my time on the bed, I entered transition.  The contractions were very intense, and it was impossible to relax though I kept making low noises in my throat.  I even gripped the rail of the bed in the middle of a contraction.  Somehow, I did sleep in between almost every contraction.  I thought about medication, but didn’t dream of asking for it.  During each contraction, I lived for the moment it would be over and I could rest.  I also knew that the whole thing would be over soon.  Instead of expressing transition feelings by asking for drugs, I was scared of pushing.  I was absolutely terrified. 

I knew the moment I was dilated to 10 cm, because my body wanted to push.  I felt too tired and too scared to, and I told Leslie that.  She assured me that it would feel better to push, and she helped me into a sitting squat position.  I think that was at around 4 am.  It took a few contractions until I was finally in the position and starting to push, and she was right, it hurt less to push.  I was not trying very hard because I was scared and didn’t know exactly what to do. I could tell she was getting frustrated with how I was pushing.  She had warned me that if she felt I needed to change positions during pushing that she would make me move, so when she told me we were getting on the birthing stool I didn’t complain but I didn’t help.  She, Brian, and my mom, who had come in and sat in the room while I was in transition, dragged me off the bed and onto the birthing stool.  I started out leaning forward and elevating myself onto my heels, but there was no way the baby was coming like that.  She would not get past my pubic bone.  Gradually, Leslie convinced me to lean back on the stool into Brian and push towards her (she was sitting on the floor in front of me).  I could tell we were making progress then, because it didn’t hurt hardly at all during contractions, but it hurt a lot in between.  I would hold my breath and push then pant in between contractions.  It made me really light headed, so they encouraged me to slow down my breathing in between.  As the baby got closer, they brought a mirror but I didn’t want to see.  I had hardly opened my eyes at all since we had gotten to the hospital.  Before one contraction, I opened my eyes and saw that they had brought the baby warmer and other equipment in, and I got really excited.  I kept telling myself that I wanted the baby to come soon so I wouldn’t be scared of pushing her out.  From when she started crowning to when she came out was only 4 or 5 contractions and it hurt a lot.  I got a second degree tear, which burned and hurt but the hot compresses Leslie was using helped a lot.  Once the head was out, she made me stop pushing until the next one so they could suction the baby’s mouth out and that was the worst pain of the whole thing -  waiting with the baby’s head out in between contractions.  Finally, the next contraction came and she came out.  She was covered in vernix and screaming.  I couldn’t believe how small she was, which shocked the nurses.  She was eight and a half pounds!  Up until the last few pushes I was wearing a night gown, more because I had forgotten to take it off than out of modesty.  But when I realized the baby was coming soon, I took if off, since I wanted her on my chest.  They put her on my chest and waited until the cord had stopped pulsing before they cut it.  The placenta came out, it seemed, without any more contractions and it was huge!  I couldn’t believe that it and the baby had been inside of me!  They took the baby pretty quickly, because I was bleeding a lot and Leslie wanted to stitch me up. 

That began the worst part.  I had a strange tear -  not too deep but gaping and I was bleeding from my uterus a lot so Leslie couldn’t see what was coming from the tear.  I had several shots of Lidocaine, which was very painful and the repair was hard because my knees were shaking so badly, it was cold, and I felt unprepared.  Leslie worked on me for an hour, then another doctor came in later and worked on me for a few more minutes.  I didn’t get to see the baby much after they took her off my chest, but I was too tired and sick to care.  I did get to nurse her a few times in the next three hours while she was still so alert, and I was glad for that, but I felt like I had been hit by a truck and was grateful for the time she was in the nursery.  I began to feel a lot better by the end of the day and got to enjoy her more. 

I’m so glad I got to deliver without drugs.  I felt very strong, in fact, that was the most encouraging thing my birth attendants kept telling me, “You’re very strong, you can do this.”  I think it also helped eliminate any kind of initial nursing problems.  Reese seemed to know how to nurse all on her own, I just had to get her in the right position.  Other than my tear, my recovery has been pretty easy and quick.  Giving birth with a midwife was just wonderful too.  The care she provided before, during, and after the birth was incomparable.  I felt like her only patient.  She respected my need to have Brian with me constantly, gave us space when we didn’t need help, but she was forceful when I needed it.  The birth was a great experience.

A Birth Story: Peg & Baby Maggie

I was on the phone with a friend on Tuesday, September 19th around 9pm. I stood up after the call ended and felt a little gush of fluid. Nothing huge, but big enough for me to take notice. At 38 ½ weeks, I excitedly hoped this could be it, but since this was my first baby I wasn’t sure. I called my midwife who said it was likely urine (even though it didn’t smell like urine) or a pocket of fluid. She thought it probably wasn’t my bag of waters. Overnight I had irregular, mild contractions. Enough to keep me from sleeping well, but by morning they had stopped.

Wednesday morning 9/20, my husband went into work. I worked from my home office but called my boss, telling her that I thought things were happening and told her I wouldn’t be working that afternoon. I had some irregular contractions that morning, but no real labor pattern. I still had a small trickle of fluid. After lunch, I took a couple long walks around my neighborhood to try and get contractions going. By 1:00, the leak of fluid was pretty regular but I was still without a true labor pattern.

I checked in with my midwife later in the afternoon who suggested I go to triage at the hospital to have them confirm if it was my amniotic fluid leaking. Jim suggested we go out to dinner first, in case they decided to admit me, and then at least I would have a good meal in me. (He actually remembered that from our Bradley classes). I decided on Thai food hoping the spices would kick things into gear. No luck.

We went to the hospital around 8 pm on Wednesday, where the midwife on call confirmed that I was leaking amniotic fluid and checked my cervix – I was 2 cm dilated. When asked when my water broke, I fibbed and said I couldn’t remember exactly. When asked when I noticed a constant leak, I told the truth – around 1 pm. They offered to admit me at that time, but I wanted to go home and try some other methods to get labor to start, so I declined. I was told to come back at 1:00 am for induction.

My spirits were crushed at this point. I had wanted an unmedicated birth experience and didn’t believe that would be possible with Pitocin. So I called my friends who all lit the candles they received at my blessingway and ask that they start to pray. I hooked myself up to the breast pump hoping the release of oxcytocin would get contractions going. I spoke with my doula who suggested taking castor oil if the nipple stimulation didn’t work. I took a “shot” of castor oil around 10:00 pm and tried to get some sleep before heading in. Sleep alluded me though, not because of contractions, but because I was worried about the possibility of Pitocin.

As we were getting in the car to head in for induction, I felt that my castor oil might be kicking in and made a trip to the bathroom. And wouldn’t you know, we weren’t even out of our driveway when mild contractions started coming 5 minutes apart! When we got to the hospital, my friend and midwife Cheyenne greeted us. I trust her completely and was so thankful she agreed to attend my birth. The doula also met us there. I was only 3 cm when I checked in, but because contractions had become regular Cheyenne was comfortable not giving me Pitocin. So we walked and walked and walked the halls some more, trying to keep contractions coming. They were mild at this point and I could still talk through them.

Around 4 am, I tried to lie down and get some rest but this caused contractions to nearly stop. The nurse came in and said, “Cheyenne is thinking about giving you some Pitocin to get things going.” Upon sensing the threat of pit, my body and the baby were moved into action! Contractions started up again, at a higher intensity. I ate some fruit and listened to my labor music. As things got more intense, I moved to the birthing ball and the nurse monitored fetal heart tones with the doppler. The nurse hooked up my antibiotics (since my water had been broken for so long) and I had a cervical check. I was about 7cm.

Things were pretty stable and my husband went down to get some coffee around 6:30 am. While he was gone, my doula suggested I might enjoy a hot shower, so the nurse went to warm it up. All of a sudden, I had an urge to sit on the toilet. Not to use the bathroom, but to SIT ON THE TOILET – it was the only thing I wanted to do. As I was sitting, a huge gush of water filled the pot. The bag of water between the baby’s head and my cervix broke. Still wearing my street clothes at that point, I became very hot, agitated and felt confined around my neck. Sitting on the toilet and stripping my clothes off, I saw my midwife out of the corner of my eye – she was grinning ear to ear and gave two big thumbs up to my doula out in the room. Intellectually, I knew that I was heading into transition and my loosing modesty was a good thing. But I found my midwife’s enthusiasm about my current state quiet annoying at the time.

And then it gets a bit blurry from here on out. As I walked back to the bed, I had intense contractions with every step. The nurse told me the shower was ready but there was no way I could walk that far, so I collapsed onto the bed. My husband was back now and sat next to the bed, stroking my arm, telling me what a great job I was doing. I remember the doula rubbing my feet. I felt hot and dizzy and I saw Cheyenne reach for the emesis basin – “Why is she doing that?” I wondered. And seconds later, I vomited.

Contractions were very intense and coming one right after the other with very little rest between. I was exhausted. The pain was intense. I was dizzy. This was not like anything I ever imagined. There was no way I could take any more. I would look at Jim and say, “I can’t do this!” to which he responded, “You ARE doing it!” Jim led me through a guided imagery that helped me focus on the task, relax and open up.

Then I felt downward pressure and the urge to push. Cheyenne had left the room to check on another birthing mom. I remember sitting up, very seriously, and asking “Okay, what is going on? What are we doing? “My doula asked, “Do you feel like pushing?” Lying on my left side, I started pushing. At some point, Cheyenne returns. I pushed for about 45 minutes and experienced the “ring of fire” as described. It took every ounce of energy I had. Some people say pushing is a great relief. I think those people are nuts. It was intense, hard work!

 At 10:46 am, September 21, 2006, my world forever changed and I started the journey of a lifetime – motherhood. I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. Margaret Grace weighed 8 lbs 12 oz and was 21 ¾ inches long. She was immediately placed on my chest where she promptly peed all over me! She had a head of thick black hair, a thick coat of vernix, her eyes were shut tight and she wailed. We were covered in warm towels and snuggled up together – tears running down my husband’s nose and sweat running down my cheeks – we were a family!

Stephanie’s Birth Story

I had imagined and hoped that I would labor and give birth to our daughter at night, and that’s exactly the way it happened.
Friday night, February 11, my husband and I were just hanging out at home, watching episodes of Dexter on DVD and planning to bake some dark chocolate peanut butter cookies. Around 7:15 after an episode of Dexter had ended, I ducked into the bathroom to pee.  When I sat down on the toilet I felt a POP and a small rush of liquid.  I continued to pee, wondering — was that my water just breaking?!?
“Hubby,” I called through the open doorway to the restroom.  “I don’t want to get too excited but I think my water might just have broken.”
“Let’s just wait and see. Maybe we should just go ahead and make those cookies.”
“Wait and see” happened as soon as I got off the toilet and clear liquid continued to run down my legs.  We knew then that we at least needed to give the midwife on call a heads up.  When we called her, we were excited to learn that the midwife on call was Anjli, our favorite.  Anjli asked us to plan on calling her around 8 the following morning and heading to the hospital sometime around then, unless something changed beforehand.
We then called our doula, Charlotte, and gave her the heads up that it looked like we were going to have a baby sometime in the next day!  Charlotte told us she was on the ready but that we should all try to get some rest. We heard from both her and Anjli that it was possible things could progress faster now that my water had broke, as that is often the case when your water breaking begins labor.
For the past two weeks I’d had very mild, non-rhythmic, period-like cramping.  By about an hour after my water breaking, I noticed that they were beginning to fall into a rhythm, and they already felt like about 10 minutes apart, although I wasn’t timing them.  I hopped into the shower, and while in there the contractions started feeling more uncomfortable. I called out to my husband that while I could be wrong I thought things might happen sooner than the morning.  Meanwhile, he started to load up our car, put out extra food and water for the cats, and take care of any last-minute items we needed to pack.
After my shower at around 9:30 (I’m guessing), we dimmed the lights in the bedroom and I put on my guided meditation CD.  My husband tried to videotape a clip of me laboring at that point, and he asked me through the camera if I had anything to say.  My only comment was, “Will you come lay down with me please?” And so he did, or kneeled by the bed at least.  I was doing a deep cleansing breath at the beginning and end of each contraction, and I also soon told hubby that I wasn’t able to focus on the guided meditation CD.  In fact, I don’t know if I was ever able to truly follow the meditation at all.  I was already descending into what felt like this kind of parallel universe of labor.  My husband could tell by my cleansing breaths that the contractions were becoming very close — in fact, he said “I think they’re about two to three minutes apart.  I think we should call the midwife again.”
I felt silly — what if we were calling too soon? Was the fact that they seemed (were) so close together just a fluke? Was I an overreacting first-time laboring mom? Still, hubby knew I was experiencing something more intense as I started my slow-paced breathing, and he called Anjli, who told us to go to the hospital where they would check me and let her know if she should come in, and then Charlotte, who said she would meet us there.
The car ride to the hospital felt like a dream.  The black sky, street lights passing by in a blur, bar hoppers dashing across the street in front of our car at a red light.  “Want to stop for a drink?” one of us joked weakly.  “Guess we won’t be going to see Black Swan tomorrow!” another one of us — I’m not sure who — said as we rode toward the hospital.  I was continuing my slow-paced breathing and holding the beaded necklace that the women who attended my shower made for me, using it as my focal point through contractions.  The ride to the hospital seemed longer than it had any time we had gone for our regular midwife appointments, and it felt like we were the keepers of this great secret, like everyone else was going about their normal routines and we were about to witness a miracle that no one else knew about.
At the hospital at around 10:30 hubby parked and we walked in together.  I had to stop and lean over a railing by the parking garage during one contraction, and two women leaving the hospital stopped to ask if I was okay. “Yes, we’re just about to have a baby!” hubby said, and my contraction ended and I smiled at them.  Inside, I sat down in the emergency room waiting area (where we had to enter since it was weekend hours) and hubby got in line behind a man at the counter.  I wondered how long our wait would be as I felt another contraction beginning, and a female employee saw me from behind a half swinging door and asked who I was with.  I couldn’t talk — just pointed at my husband.  She quickly had the security guard behind the desk push me in a wheelchair up to the seventh floor, labor and delivery.
Upstairs, although I had preregistered, I knew I would have more paperwork to fill out, and I had to fill out a form with my name and basic information (turns out my labor was so quick that I actually had to fill out MOST of the paperwork after though! — including a form that said they thought I had a “reasonable chance at a vaginal delivery” even though at that point I’d already had one — ha!).  I was taken into a room where I was put in a bed and strapped to a fetal monitor. I did NOT like lying back in a supine position for this monitoring, but thankfully our practice only requires it for 30 minutes.  Our nurse started asking me all of these frustrating questions, like what was my occupation, and how much education had I completed. My husband was answering her but getting short with her, because he was really focusing on me.  He was so awesome this whole time — coaching me with reminding me to stay “limp noodle” and to breathe, telling me “you can do it! you’re doing great” over and over again.  Finally the nurse asked me what I would rate my pain on a ten-scale.
“Probably a three or four,” I said, thinking that while it was intense that surely it could get more intense. 
I saw her look dubiously up from her charts (or so it seemed to me) as if thinking, “you came in too early girl!”
“Don’t get me wrong — it’s intense,” I said.  “I just imagine it will get more intense.”  I said in between contractions.
Then it was time for her to check my cervix.  “Are you done with a contraction?” she said?
“Yes, but hurry” — they were coming on so quickly now.
Then she checked my cervix and said, “Oh wow, you’re an eight or a nine — I could really almost push this last bit aside.”
Things started to become blurrier for me here.  I understand now what is meant when you hear that labor is like going deep into an alternate dimension.  I felt like I was existing on another plane, but I knew I was safe with my husband there to take care of me and to make sure that everything around us was keeping us safe as well.  I felt like we were going on a journey together.
Our midwife, Anjli, was called and had been there for maybe one contraction before I told her I felt like I had to push. (I was just glad she made it in time!)
“It’s okay, you can push.  Listen to your body,” she said.
And then suddenly our doula, Charlotte, was there, and my husband filled her in.  Meanwhile, the nurses had started to blow up the inflatable tub out in the hospital hallway, as I was hoping for a water birth.  In between contractions, I remember saying to Anjli, “they’re not going to get the tub in time, are they?” and she said, “they’re blowing it up right now; it’s okay.”
I was also ready to get the monitors off me at that point, which was a mini struggle between Anjli and the nurse.  Finally we ripped it off and I immediately got on all fours sideways on the bed.  Anjli asked me in between contractions to turn so I was longways on the bed, and so staying on all fours I did just that — with my arms draped over the back of the hospital bed. 
I was continuing to push through each contraction.  The spontaneous need to push was incredible — it is true what they say that your body TRULY knows when to push…I can’t IMAGINE being coached when to push.  My body knew just when to push and when I was in the midst of those contractions I HAD to bear down — my body had no other choice.  If I had needed to stop to keep from a bad tear or something I’m sure I could have, but it would have been HARD.
The lights in the room were dim.  The tub was being filled.  Anjli at some point told me that it was possible that the baby could come before the tub was full, and I said that was okay.  I just wanted her here.  I felt hands rubbing my lower back between contractions; I think it was Anjli.  My husband continued to give me simple words of encouragement (at some point since arriving at the hospital I had asked him to say a little less — with the higher intensity shorter sentences felt right.)  I remember Charlotte was up near my head, offering me sips of water between contractions and encouraging me to send me energy down to my abdomen and my baby.  I could almost feel myself sinking into that feeling and allowing my tension and energy to shift downward where it needed to be, versus focusing on the pain and keeping it up in a tense upper body.  I also was vocalizing during contractions, something I had wondered if I would be embarrassed to do — let me tell you, embarrassment flew out the window.  The feeling was primal.  I was doing whatever my body needed to do.  Charlotte suggested making the sounds deeper (which is proven to make them more productive), and she made a sound I could imitate, which helped.
Pushing was the most intense part for me.  I could so intensely feel the baby’s head.  At one point I remember screaming an expletive, but mostly I tried to moan deep and low, and hubby kept telling me what a good job I was doing.  His support meant the world to me.  He stayed back near the foot of the bed with Anjli, who was coaching him on how to catch the baby, which he wanted to do. I remember hearing them talk quietly down there, and after one of my contractions ended I said, “what are y’all talking about down there?” to which everyone laughed and she told me she was telling him how to catch the baby.
At one point, he told me, “She has hair, sweetie! I can see her hair!”
“What color?” I asked after the contraction ended. He said he couldn’t tell, but it was a lot of hair.
That was so encouraging!  She was close.  She kept slipping back into me a bit after every push, but I knew she was close to crowning.  I told Anjli I felt like i was holding back from really pushing with all my strength because I was afraid of tearing or pushing too fast, and she said, “It’s okay — just do what your body tells you to.  If you need to slow down, I will yell STOP loudly so you will definitely hear it.”
I felt so safe and protected by my three caregivers!!
With that encouragement, I began to really bear down during contractions.  Finally, there was a contraction after which her head was crowning — that was pretty intense.  But it was good, and it helped everything to stretch between contractions…it was a hard moment though. I had to wait that entire minute or however long it was between the urge to bear down again with her head just resting there.
The next push and her head was out — my husband told me later that she was just looking up at him with her eyes wide and only her head out.  Another push and I felt her entire body slide out of me — shoulder, torso, legs.  I heard my husband begin to cry and I looked back over my shoulder.  There she was, in his hands on the bed, wet, crying, beautiful, and covered in vernix. Our baby was born after pushing for about 30 minutes — at 12:37 a.m. on February 12.
I immediately started shaking from the adrenalin as they tried to pass her underneath my legs to me.  It all felt like too much — the shaking, her wetness, the cord, my gown — I didn’t think I could take her safely and turn around.  The gown I had brought from home to labor in suddenly felt like too much to me to handle and I WANTED MY BABY. “Get this off of me!” I yelled, and threw my arms up over my head.  Charlotte pulled the gown off in one motion, and then they passed me my baby and helped me turn around on the bed.
No matter how much emotional, mental, and spiritual preparation I had for this moment I had no idea what to expect.  It was magical.  My husband and I had certainly gone on a journey together and emerged with this beautiful new life that was part of both of us.  I don’t know how to put the feeling in words, but it was absolutely incredible.  Her hair was thick and dark, and her eyes a dark blue.  They gave her Apgar scores of 9-10. She laid on me skin to skin and with help from Charlotte and Anjli we nursed.  My husband cut her cord.  We spent an hour or two bonding before they took her to the basinette next to me to be weighed and measured, and checked by the pediatrician.  She was born 7 pounds and 0.5 ounce, 20 inches, and is perfectly healthy.  
I am so happy with our birth experience. I was committed to the idea that the most important end result of labor was “healthy baby, healthy mom” and that all the other stuff were just details.  That meant that I wasn’t disappointed that we didn’t have a water birth — maybe next time!
One thing I thought might happen but I didn’t realize would happen to such an extent would be how my husband and I would bond through the process.  We shared a lot of tears together in the days after coming home from the hospital.  I would say as couples go we are very close, but this just made us closer than ever.  
It took several days to feel like we had lifted out of that trippy post-birth fog.  The shimmery effect that the world had seemed to take on started to fade, and reality returned.  Our new reality is so much more beautiful with her in it.

Healthy Birth Around the World: Chiapas, Mexico

Welcome to our first post in the series, “Healthy Birth Around the World.”  With this series, we will be posting stories of birth from all over the world to show how birth can be different, but in many ways, just the same. If you have a story to share, please e-mail it to

When I knew that I was pregnant, I immediately began searching for prenatal care with midwives; I couldn’t imagine any other way. There were several reasons that I considered midwifery care — I have glaucoma (an eye disease) and I knew that midwives would treat me as a woman and not as a sick person. Second, I had heard that hospital births were treated as “unnatural” — I was born vaginally and knew that I wanted to birth my own baby the same way.

On the morning of the August 29, 2009 at 4 am, I started to feel hard contractions and I wondered if they were ”true” contractions or if I should wait for harder ones. In the meantime, I did some yoga and movements to relax my pelvic floor and perineum.

Contractions continued, but were irregular. I breathed, I crawled and I took a hot shower to relax. The contractions began to get harder. It was 6 am, so I tried to eat a little bit of fruit. At that moment, my water broke. I called my doula and midwife, and we traveled to the Luna Maya Birth Center.

The intensity of contractions were continous and constant. The midwife wisely suggested that I get down on my knees and embrace my doula by her waist. I remember looking out the window and focusing on the beautiful plants and the very blue sky.

My doula was focused on my breathing and she encouraged me with her words. The intensity of each contraction became harder — it  felt as if I was going up a montain running and then walking down into a field of flowers.

Later we all started to chant sounds that helped me relax and open my cervix. I couldn’t distinguish space and time; I could only concentrate on my breathing and sounds. After that I thought I felt with my fingers my baby’s head. My doula confirmed that my baby was crowning. I was doing well – everything was perfect.

We continued chanting sounds that came out with a lot of intensity as the contractions continued. I thought of all the women, friends, sisters, mothers and daughers who had birthed before me. My baby’s head came out.

Although I felt very tired, I tried to continue with my breathing. Three breaths, one chant, and I screamed from my mouth down to my vagina and then my baby was born!

I embraced and welcomed him, I kissed him and caressed him. I moved slowly to the bed with the help of the midwives. My baby was still crying, but I held him in my arms and give him his first meal. I pulled down the sheet a little bit and I saw… it was a surprise! He was a boy! His name would be Kayab (dance and rythm) in Mayan language. He then ate from my warm and loving breast.

My body was very tired, but the placenta wasn’t born yet. At that moment, I felt so many things at once — tired, cold, excited, joyful, satisfied, happy… One of the midwives helped deliver the placenta, which was huge, and she took every precaution to make sure I didn’t lose a lot of blood.

Later I heard that my baby weighed 3.7 kg (8 lbs 2 oz) and measured 52 cm (20.4 in). I remembered that other women had said that our bodies make babies according to the size of the mother. It appears that nature can play tricks! I am a small mom with a big baby! 

Blanca Santiz
San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico

A Birth Story: Lauren & Baby Naomi

On Monday, June 14, I went to work just to do patient phone calls and desk work. The nurses I work with hadn’t let me hardly touch a patient for days so I knew I could get a few hours at work and not over exert myself. I worked about a half day and then went to the chiropractor for a routine visit. My midwife recommended chiropractic care to help with the baby’s positioning and also for my pelvic/hip alignment. On the way home I felt the urge to do a major grocery shopping trip, so off to Giant I went to stock up on essentials. Over an hour later, I finally got home, only to commence a kitchen overhaul…cleaning out the fridge and reorganizing the cabinets. After my nesting cravings had been satiated I was able to relax with my husband, Adam, until about 10:30 pm when I started to have some Braxton Hicks contractions. Hoping to sleep through these minor contractions, I was asleep by 11:30 pm, but then was up at 2 am due to the discomfort that was coming with each contraction. At this point, it felt mostly like moderate to severe menstrual cramps, not so bad. I was excited and hoping that maybe this was “it” so I started tracking the frequency of each surge. All night my contractions came with some regularity, but they were too inconsistent. On Tuesday morning around 8 am I spoke with my midwife who suggested I try to rest and keep my appointment for that afternoon.

On the birth ball, with Adam supporting my back.

At my appointment around 2 pm, I found out that I was only 1cm dilated which was a little discouraging at the time. Megan (the midwife) was really concerned that I was so exhausted and suggested I try to get some sleep that night because true labor could be weeks away. At her suggestion, I accepted some prescription sleeping pills, knowing that I needed the rest. Unfortunately I had a reaction to the sleeping pills which caused me to be incoherent and in and out of sleep all night. I found myself in the tub around 5:30 am, listening to my iPod and breathing through each surge.

On Wednesday morning, I didn’t feel rested and the contractions were getting stronger. I spoke with my hypnobirthing instructor on the phone and made another appointment with the chiropractor in hopes that she could help “get things moving.” I also made an appointment with an acupuncturist, hoping that maybe stimulating the right pressure points could help get me into active labor. While at home, I just sat on my exercise ball, bouncing around or trying to relax in the tub. I found that my surges were increasing in intensity but I was still able to breathe through each one and stay very relaxed, calm and positive. I’ll take a moment to note that as prepartion for birth, I listened to relaxation exercises and birth affirmations as part of my hypnobirthing class. Because of this, I was able to quickly go into a deep state of relaxation and allow my body to respond to uterine surges with ease. Around 2 pm I checked back in with my midwife requesting to be assessed prior to my acupuncture appointment; my contractions were about every 5 minutes and I was just plain curious to see if things were progressing. 

Meeting Naomi for the first time.

At the birth center, the midwife told me I would not be making my appointment for acupuncture because I was 7 cm dilated and she wanted to admit me! I was relieved to know I really was in labor and excited to have the baby! Adam and I went upstairs and chose our birthing room, a large room with private jacuzzi tub and comfy queen size bed. Adam unpacked the car and brought my exercise ball in for me to use. After a little while I asked my nurse, Ann to get the tub ready so I could relax in there for a bit. I labored in the tub for a couple hours, Adam rubbing my shoulders and my mom massaging my low back during each contraction. My ipod speakers were set up with some relaxing music and the recording of birth affirmations previously mentioned. I was allowed to eat and drink as I wanted and was encouraged to take fluid by mouth since I did not have an IV like at a hospital.

 Around 7 pm, I was presented with the option to have my membranes ruptured. I was really exhausted from not sleeping for 2 nights and really wanted to get things moving so Adam and I decided to go ahead and do it. Afterward, the contractions became increasingly intense and I changed position from the tub to birthing stool. After pushing for about an hour I moved onto the bed so that I could be better supported. At 9:50 pm, Naomi Christine was born after about 1.5 hours of pushing.  My labor was calm and relaxed until I had to push. While I wouldn’t say that it was painful, pushing required every ounce of my being because I had been sleep deprived and unfortunately had not eaten enough that day.

Our first family photo.

While I received some sutures, Adam took off his shirt and held Naomi ”skin-to-skin” with him. Then, she went right to my chest and stayed there for 2 hours. She had absolutely no problems with jaundice, having passed two meconium stools in the first 4 hours of life, and my milk was in at 48 hours. I attribute these things to the uninterrupted skin-to-skin time of bonding and nursing in those first hours of life. I’m thankful that my first birthing experience was what I envisioned. I felt empowered, in control, and had minimal medical interventions.

A Birth Story: Amy & Baby June

Enjoy a beautiful birth story from the perspective of Amy Bauer, a labor & delivery nurse in a hospital, as she prepared for and birthed her own child in a birth center with a midwife.

When my husband and I got pregnant earlier in the year, we set right to work to prepare for our child’s birth. Long before getting pregnant, I knew what kind of birth experience I wanted to have. We researched birth centers in our area, identified childbirth education and lactation classes, and talked at length about what it means to have a natural, normal birth. Throughout my pregnancy, I worked the night shift as a new labor and delivery nurse at a hospital that specializes in high-risk pregnancy and birth. At this hospital, natural, normal birth is a rare event. Physicians routinely meddle with the labor process at every turn. Artificial rupture of membranes (AROM) and Pitocin are routinely used to hurry labor along, sometimes without medical indication. On top of that, nearly 95% of our patients opt for epidural anesthesia and approximately 41% of births are by cesarean section. New to nursing and now preparing for my own labor, I felt uncertain how, as a new L&D nurse, I could best support women in labor and birth in this environment. I also began to wonder if my body would know what to do in labor. As my due date neared, I shared these concerns with Katie, my midwife, who gave me a great piece of advice: while working in labor & delivery, I was to a) visualize my own labor and birth every day; b) surround myself with positive stories about natural labor and birth; and, c) keep my “nursing brain” out of my own labor and birth when labor began. I did just that – I confided in fellow nurses who were strong advocates of natural, normal birth and poured over written birth stories that illustrated the beauty and power of natural birth. At the risk of feeling a bit silly, I also recited positive affirmations each day to remind myself that my baby would find her way and that I could in fact trust my body when labor began.

In the early morning hours of June 27, my labor began with mild irregular contractions. It was a beautiful, yet uneventful labor, lasting nearly 19 hours from start to finish. In the beginning, distraction helped. I remember sneaking out of bed at 4:00 in the morning to write thank-you notes for a recent baby shower in between contractions. Rhythm also proved to be helpful. Later that morning, when labor became more intense, I relied heavily on my husband to literally rock me back and forth through each contraction. The contractions were hard and consistent throughout the day, but by no means unbearable. Following the advice of my midwife, I remained mentally present in my labor, keeping my “nursing brain” out of it, never stopping to wonder how far dilated I might be or when it would be time to push. I simply breathed, rocked, and swayed my way through each contraction, focusing solely on the rhythm of my movements and the power of my laboring body.

By late afternoon, after nearly 15 hours of regular contractions, I sensed that my labor had changed. We had spent the early afternoon walking around an indoor mall, during which my contractions increased in frequency from about eight minutes apart to three to six minutes apart. We came home and I immediately made my way to the bathroom, overwhelmed by two or three very long, strong contractions. Looking for relief, I crawled into a hot shower while instructing my husband to call the midwife. I could feel my labor intensify with transition. After a brief phone call with the midwife, Jason and I decided to head over to the birth center. With help from my husband, I used short quick breaths to help me stay relaxed through the most intense contractions. Twenty-five minutes later, Katie, our midwife, greeted us at the door of the birth center as I toddled my way into the center. Between contractions, I felt calm and focused, even conversational.

On the four-post bed of the labor room, which looked nothing like the hospital labor rooms I was accustomed to, Katie confirmed by digital exam what I already knew: I was completely dilated with just an anterior lip. We continued to labor at the center. An hour and a half later, it was time to push. With my first push, my water broke, bringing the baby’s head far down into my pelvis. Even then, with the baby at plus 1 station, I didn’t feel a tremendous urge to push. We pushed anyway, and in many different positions: on the toilet, on my side, on hands and knees, in a squatting position. Finally, in hope of getting the baby’s head to slip under my pubic bone, I asked to push in a semi-sitting position, which did the trick. At 9:01pm, June Dahlia Bauer was born. The midwife placed her on my chest, and I immediately wiped her dry and placed her on my chest to greet this little life in my arms. In that moment, our lives changed for ever.

Just eight short weeks after June’s birth, I returned to work full-time: three night shifts a week. Initially, I was afraid that I would judge those who chose to use epidural anesthesia, given that I had labored on my own without medication easily enough. I was also apprehensive about returning to a birth culture that embraced active management of the labor process. Instead, my personal experience with labor and birth transformed me on the unit floor. As I gain strength in my clinical skills, I continue to draw from my own experience to better advocate for my laboring patients. For example, I steer my patients’ focus away from the pain of contractions using imagery and rhythm. I encourage movement in labor, even for those who are confined to a bed following epidural anesthesia. When it comes time to push, I dim the lights in the room and ask the residents and medical staff to use soft voices to maintain a calm and centered ambiance. Most importantly, I have learned that patient education is central to my role as an advocate for normal birth. I put more energy and time into reminding my patients to question medical interventions that seem unnecessary or routine. By doing this, I believe I am better serving my patients and helping women find their own way through labor and birth in the hospital setting.