Aylas’ Birth Story

I was 8 weeks pregnant at my first OB visit, and I was in shock. My OB, who had been so positive about doing a VBAC after my son’s birth by Cesarean, was now going through the list of “can and cannot’s” about my “trying” for a VBAC. “You can’t be more than one day overdue. The baby can’t be more than 9lbs.” And the list went on. I was devastated. After educating myself about the VBAC realities I knew that it wasn’t the risky danger to me and my baby that my malpractice-minded OB would make it seem. (Read The Thinking Women’s Guide to Birth or Misconceptions for the statistics and facts that reassured me).

So what to do? I called around to a few midwife groups that delivered in hospitals only to realize that many delivered with doctors looking over their shoulder and they too had pretty strict VBAC guidelines. I didn’t want someone reminding me about my previous c-section my entire pregnancy.

Jack’s birth, while a beautiful event, was also a sad thing for me. His head was turned to the side, he wouldn’t descend. I wasn’t educated about that kind of scenario and mistakenly trusted my doctors urging to get an epidural (it’s going to be a long night, or you are going to get a c-section, they told me, you better get this now). The epidural (at 7cm) of course meant I couldn’t walk or move to try and reposition him. So, of course, I ended up with a c-section, and a difficult one, with one doctor pushing him back up inside of me, he was so stuck, and the other with their hands in my belly trying to get him out, for more than an hour, while I vomited on the table. I wanted a peaceful birth this time, with no memories of tears marring the event. And I didn’t need someone treating me differently my entire pregnancy. Like my uterus was some dangerous time bomb. I was strong and healthy and knew I could do this – with someone caring for me and my baby by my side.

I found this in not just one but three incredible strong women – Emme, Clare and Gail. After a few weeks of discussing our options I found myself leaning more and more toward home birth. My mother gave birth to my brother at home with a midwife so I knew she would support me. My husband (coming from a family in the medical field) was more hesitant. But after talking with other families and really pondering the decision we agreed to interview some midwives and go for it. I felt such a release as we sat to talk with Emme, Gail and Clare. Here were women who believed in the strength of the female body, who wouldn’t treat me like damaged goods.

During my pregnancy I forgot about the whole VBAC issue, for the most part. My care from our midwives was so loving, the way they put their hands on my belly and called my baby a sweet girl brought tears to my eyes more than once. Through the pregnancy the pain of not being more prepared – and somehow preventing – our son’s cesarean dissipated. With the preparation of a Bradley class I was ready and excited for this birth experience.

Our son predicted his sister’s birthday. He told me the Monday before she would be born that Saturday, and I kind of felt like he was right. The night before I went into labor we stayed up late watching a movie after a day of errands and cleaning and a special mommy and Jack outing for hot chocolate and library storytime. I woke up at 3:30 in the morning on Saturday wondering if my water had just broke. I could feel something was different. I had endured months of frequent braxton hicks contractions but this was different. I laid in bed for an hour watching the clock, trying to rest, as the contractions got closer and more intense. By 5am they were 4 minutes apart and really intense. I woke up my husband, called my mom, and called our midwives. After a breakfast of eggs, taking bites between contractions the first midwife arrived. By this point I couldn’t speak or move during each surge and she started to get things ready, thinking a baby was around the corner.

My husband went down to our family room and lit a fire. I came down and did squats, experimenting with different positions to ease the discomfort. It was amazing feeling everything so clearly, just what my body needed. With our son I was on the birthing ball the whole time, rocking over my giant belly listening to music. But for some reason I couldn’t sit, I wanted to lean, stand, move, squat a little. Around 8am I attempted pushing in a standing position, leaning against my husband but our team thought it didn’t sound like I was ready. A quick check confirmed, I was only 3-4 cm! Thankfully no one told me – “progress updates” can only serve to disappoint and I would’ve been devastated!

More than the pain it was the endurance mind thing of labor that caught me off guard. It really was like forcing yourself to run another mile on the treadmill, tricking yourself to do another five minutes, another ½ mile, to push yourself to the limit. Instead they told me, lets try to work through them a little longer, maybe a shower. My body, they knew, needed to relax into the pain to open up for the baby to descend. I climbed the stairs in one contraction up to the shower. The shower helped. I lunged from side to side with each contraction, the water on my back. Back downstairs in our birthing area they checked me again. My baby’s head had descended to +1 station and I was dilated to 7cm but her head was cocked to the side, just as our son’s head been. Strangely, I wasn’t panicked. I never once thought, “this is it, I need another cesarean, lets get to the hospital.” We had been working for months on getting my body ready with nightly positioning upside down and cradling my belly with a rebozo and so on. Instead my response was, so what do we do?! My body was trying, so hard, to move her down and reposition her, which is why the contractions had felt intense enough to push so early.

At this point Clare, who had been instructing me in prenatal yoga, made a suggestion. She had noticed my slight lunging into each contraction earlier and suggested we do this five times on each side in a more deliberate way, through each contraction. I lunged five times on the left and then, with the first lunge on the right, I felt the baby shift inside of me, immediately sending a gush of liquid as the pressure increased incredibly. With this added pressure I felt the need to push again, and did a little, but a rim of cervix was still left. I was nearing exhaustion at this point, unable to take the intensity for much longer, and said so to our team. They however had the perfect response. This is the time in labor when hormones flood your body and you start doubting yourself but you CAN do this. That made sense to my rational brain and I was able to keep going. Oh, ok then. Let’s get on with it! For the next hour, I worked through each intense contraction, as I finally transitioned and readied my body for birth. During this hour Emme held one hand and my husband the other, as I lay on my side, talking me through every single contraction. “And you are rising with the wave, and let it wash over you, don’t struggle against it, let it carry you up to the sunshine, and now back down again as your toes touch the sand.” As a former California girl this metaphor really worked for me perfectly! By the end of the hour the urge to push was uncontrollable, and finally I really could. My body knew what to do and had done it to reposition my baby and get her down, with the help of some smart women.

After two hours of pushing, feeling every centimeter of progress in a strangely satisfying way, our daughter came into the world, placed on my chest by loving hands. What a peaceful girl. She was content to look up at my face, as the cord pulsed, and finally, after the placenta emerged, she nursed contently for the next hour. Her big bother met her after waking from his nap. As the afternoon turned to evening and the fire died down, our three midwives gathered around to say goodbye. They stood circled around me and my girl and we all kind of got choked up. “Sara, you are the HBAC goddess you wanted to be!” I started crying. I really had done it. It wasn’t terrifying. It was hard, but it was perfect. I had done it.

Born At Home- Jamie’s Birth

Labor started just as I had expected- in the middle of the night and straight to active labor. I woke up at 1:40 am on April 22nd (12 days past my due date) having painful contractions that were 2 minutes apart and lasting about 30 seconds. For the first 20 minutes or so the pain was just in front, but quickly spread to my back which was to be expected since the baby had been in the face-up (OP- occiput posterior) position for the last couple months of the pregnancy.

I called my midwives within 10 or 20 minutes of waking up and Emme and Clare were here by 2:50 am. My Dad kept an eye on Henry and my Mom joined us in the bedroom.

I got into the wonderful birth tub around 3:30 am. Contractions continued close together and were quite painful, especially in my back. My midwives and husband were so amazing and supportive, rubbing my back and letting me squeeze their hands. I labored in the tub for about two hours, then got out and tried a couple other locations. I hadn’t had any cervical checks at all during the pregnancy or labor, but around 6:00 am we decided to check. Thankfully I was 9 centimeters, which was very reassuring. I got back in the tub and must have reached full dilation around 6:15 am because my body and I started doing a little pushing.

I was hoping to let my body do the work of pushing the baby out, but never felt the overwhelming sensation I had felt with Henry that my body was suddenly pushing this baby down. Perhaps this was due to his face up presentation. In any event, I knew right away I was going to have to work to push this baby out and I really wanted to be done, so I got to work. Over time the contractions seemed to get shorter and weaker which was frustrating. As time wore on I felt convinced that the baby was never coming! My support team continued to be so wonderful to get me through this. At 7:00 am I felt a pop, which was my water breaking. We did another cervical check around 7:30 am to make sure there wasn’t a little cervix left that was preventing the baby from moving down, but there wasn’t. I tried lots of different positions in and out of the tub. Sometimes I could feel the baby moving a bit and at other times nothing seemed to help. At 8:15 am, after two hours of pushing in a variety of positions in the tub (on knees, squatting, standing up), we decided to move to a side-lying position on the bed. At 8:28 am his head was out and the rest of him was born 2 minutes later. Relief! The cord was wrapped once around his lower neck/upper shoulders area. The baby (eventually named James “Jamie” Edward when he was three days old) was given an Apgar score of 8 one minute after the birth and 9 at five minutes. Many of the people in the room were predicting a girl but I knew it was a boy. I was the one who checked and announced the sex to everyone.

The placenta came about 20 minutes later. Chris cut the cord at this point. I had a second degree tear which we decided not to stitch. I held Jamie for over an hour and then the midwives did their newborn exam. He weighed in at 10 pounds, 12 ounces, was 22 inches long and his head was 15 inches. I could NOT believe his weight. I had predicted 9 pounds, 8 ounces, while Chris had been predicting 10 pounds, 6 ounces which sounded crazy to me. Just the day before at my pre-natal appointment I had said “I don’t feel like this baby is that big.” How wrong I was!

This birth was quite different from what I was envisioning, but I’m so happy I was able to have Jamie at home. I know my midwives did everything they could to help me try to realize my dream of a water birth, but clearly that was not in the cards. And the baby’s size and position seem to have preventing the quick, gentle, easy birth I was hoping for! I listened to the Hypnobirthing CDs in the weeks leading up to the birth and definitely called many of the ideas from Hypnobirthing to mind while in labor. Thank goodness for that, my support team and my belief in my ability to do this. Homebirth rocks!!

Georgia’s Birth Story

Not too many days ago Georgia Grace was better known by a number of names… the baby, it, him/her, and Chuffy… a name lovingly bestowed by Mark. He claimed that Chuffy is good for a boy or a girl, infinitely adaptable… chufferton for more formal occasions, Chuffita for a girl, Chuff-a-roni, etc)! This was our first pregnancy and we didn’t want to know the baby’s sex so there was also a poll with family member’s votes. There were more girl hunches than boy. Dad-to-be, Mark, leaned heavily towards boy though, I had to keep it balanced and vote girl.

Our due date February 2nd came and went. Then a full moon on the 9th, Lincoln’s birthday the 12th, Friday the 13th and Valentine’s Day on the 14th. I thought each one of those days was a perfectly logical day to want to be born on. Baby chuffy had other plans.

Finally, patience was rewarded. By the 15th I had been starting to feel anxious about waiting any longer and had been meeting the midwives more frequently. I had already been doing acupuncture, chiropractic, walking, yoga and shiatsu to prepare for birth, but had been avoiding “induction” treatments because I didn’t want to force something if it wasn’t ready. But at 2 weeks past my due date we decided to ease into induction type home remedies. I would take castor oil and homeopathic remedies and slowly add more over the next two days as needed. As it turned out, there was no need. That night, I began to feel vaguely crampy around 8:30. I wasn’t sure if it was the castor oil making me have to go to the bathroom or not, I decided to lie down and listen to a meditation. By 9 pm I was pretty sure these were contractions! This baby decided to skip the early labor and go right into the real deal. I was in active labor from the very first contraction.

Starting at 9pm, the contractions were just a couple minutes apart and lasted around a minute. Mark took it all right in stride and was un-phased when all the carefully laid plans for distraction, support and relaxation in early labor instantly went out the window. There would be no early labor naps, card games between contractions or acupressure to get things rolling, it was all about supporting during contractions and riding out one contraction at a time. It was already time to call the wonderful midwives after just an hour of labor had passed.

Clare arrived and soon discovered that indeed this baby meant business. Mark was amazing taking all my “directions” in stride and watching over me as things continued to get more active. I had many a mantra during the labor including, “sensations bring baby”, “one at a time”, “open!”, “come on baby – we can do this”, “I trust you”, “sensation not pain”… there may have been an occasional slip into something slightly more colorful too!

Four or five hours into labor I REALLY wanted to get into the birth tub. The bathtub and all fours with the birthing ball was no longer cutting it. Clare checked me for progress and it was determined, that through some wonderful and amazing turn of events, I was actually fully dilated with a perfectly positioned baby. My body and baby really did know exactly what to do!
The environment was quiet, and supportive and all around lovely. Birth candles given and blessed by many of my women friends and mother friends burned around the curtained off room, lights were dimmed, birth art donned the walls. The heat was turned up making it oh so toasty, waves and music played in the background, and the tub was full of warm water. I got in the tub wearing the birth necklace I had made and blessed, Labor was coming and going in waves with no pressure for it to be anything other than what it was. My contractions were mixed with pushing, there was no differentiation, and there was no need to be told what to do. My body and this baby already knew. Sometimes I would just let my uterus do all the work, sometimes adding extra push power, never feeling rushed. Every so often the baby’s heart rate was checked… my baby and I were doing amazing.

The tub was surrounded by quiet supportive energy between Mark and Emme while Clare began to get things in order for the actual birth. This baby was coming soon- YAY!

Pushing against the buoyancy of the water pressure now began to feel not so right, so I moved to the bedroom where the bed seemed much more appealing. I really wanted to push now! Pushing was amazing! To actually feel the sensation that baby was nearly here, to feel the baby moving down and the pressure and to have the ability to do something about it! To reach down and feel the baby crowning, it was all amazing. Mark was up by me and eye-to-eye as pushing really started. It was so nice to hold onto him and know the midwives were standing by ready to catch this little baby. We were also going to find out if we had a little girl or boy. It was such an intense time. Then suddenly, SHE was here! She was in the world and our lives would never be the same, a slippery, pink, crying, wonderful baby. Dad got to see she was a girl and announced it with pride. My girl was set right on my chest and I beamed. The midwives were in action, but all still seemed so calm and loving and wonderful. There was so much love and support, I was on cloud nine. Our little girl was beautiful. It was amazing!

A baby girl! A family! A whole new chapter! Life is wonderful :)

Once the baby was born however, things did take a bit of a turn. While baby could not have been healthier, I began to hemorrhage after the delivery of the placenta. Within seconds the midwives sprung into action. I know some people may look at this situation and say it is a reason why home births are scary, but I can honestly say that despite everything, I could not have been in more capable and perfect hands. I know that my midwives had on hand the same medications that a hospital would use to stop a hemorrhage. I am so grateful for the great love, care and heart that these three amazing women had for me and Mark. For that, I am eternally thankful!

The midwives had three different types of medications (all also used in hospital) to routinely stop post-partum bleeds. They administered them one by one as is typical, waiting just a minute between each step and talking to us each step of the way. By step two an ambulance was on its way and by step three paramedics were on hand.

It was off to HCMC for us all. While I was still bleeding a bit, the medications and treatment done by the midwives had greatly slowed things down. Once at the hospital, another team took over. Mark did amazing with this new little girl in his arms and watched over me with such love and care. I am so blessed to be so loved!

I was admitted to the hospital overnight and given IV fluids and monitoring. Through it all, baby girl and dad were right by my side. We got to breastfeed a few hours later. This little girl was a natural! Speaking of patience!! The midwives stayed for a quite a while bringing us breakfast and supporting us, then they went back to our house and got things cleaned up so when we came home again it would be all set and welcoming. They came to the hospital to check on us too and brought us our car and things we’d need. We can’t say thank you enough.

So, we are home now. I am on strict bed rest as I build my blood back up. Which is okay because I had planned on “bedding in” based on Chinese medicine tradition anyways. Now I just have extra, extra reason to do so! Our spirits are good. Our love is stronger and more committed than ever, our little girl is healthy and beautiful and perfect and our world is so full of love and support it is almost more than a heart can take… almost.

And our little girl! On day three we woke up and both Mark and I said… I think I know which name I like best (we had narrowed it down to two). We were sure we would each have picked the opposite, so decided to count to three and just blurt it out……. 1-2-3-Georgia! And Grace as a middle name? Well, Grace means by the Grace of God and there was certainly some of that in this whole adventure. So Georgia Grace it is. Welcome to the world little one, welcome to the world!

Follow Up:
Well, it’s nearly one month later. I am recovering nicely and Georgia continues to be amazing and healthy and the light of my life! Mark is the most amazing, loving and supportive husband and new dad ever. The midwives checked up on us every day for the first week and helped us so much in so many ways. What would we have done had I just checked out of the hospital and been on our own!? They are still emailing and calling regularly and we will have another visit in another couple weeks.

I kept waiting for the hormonal crash or the harrowing realization of having an emergency and being transported, or something like that, but the truth is… even though it has been hard in lots of ways. I still feel like I’m on cloud nine! I would have never guessed it about myself (I’m not terribly maternal and baby crazy), but I LOVE this… pregnancy, birth, postpartum, having a baby! I would turn around and do it all over again tomorrow… Yes, even the birth….in a way, especially the birth!

I feel so blessed to have had the support and resources and trust to have a pregnancy and birth and postpartum laying in that are in line with the natural values I live the rest of my life by as an acupuncturist. I can’t say enough how amazing this all has been and how absolutely fulfilling and validating and filled with love it has been. I have my hard days. I cry and get frustrated sometimes; Mark and I lie in bed with a little girl in our arms and talk about how hard this is but somehow, life has never been better. I honor and thank my body, my amazing supporters and lovers, my baby girl and the universe.

Fritz’s Birth Story

It was the last night I expected my baby boy to show up. I figured it would be at least another few days. At soccer my friends teased me about my aching back, “Oh, you’re in labor for sure!”

“I’m just tired, this baby is taking it’s own sweet time. It’ll be a few days” I replied. And I cheered on my son’s soccer game, noting a few inconsistent contractions throughout the game.

We were home by 7:30 and Matt put the boys to bed. By that time my back was aching more and I thought I’d better get to work on some last minute details for work, “just in case, “ I thought. But as I typed, my backache grew stronger and those mild contractions started having some intensity to them. When I realized it was getting hard to type and put a straight thought together, I gave in and realized that yes, this baby was coming tonight! I told Matt it was time to make our calls.

I decided to try to get some sleep. I took a shower and went to bed. I could hear Matt downstairs, making phone calls, doing the dishes, tidying up. I felt a bit nervous. This was my third baby but first homebirth. Would everything go as I hoped? But as I heard those hushed voices coming in, Emme and Clare, I suddenly felt completely safe. I remembered what wonderful hands I was in and relaxed as I heard them setting up down in the sunroom.

Emme and Clare came up to check on me and listen to the baby’s heartbeat. Everything sounded great. I was feeling well. It was time for us to get some sleep.

Around 1am my contractions grew stronger. Jen, our friend who would be caring for the boys arrived and my doula came upstairs to help me through the contractions. She gave me a heated rice pack which helped with the pain in my back; I had never had back pain this intense before with my boys. She applied pressure, which helped too. Matt checked on the tub as I thought it might be time to go down fairly soon. My contractions were much stronger and closer together. Every now and then Emme would appear to have a listen to the baby’s heartbeat, to reassure me, to see what I might need or want.

By 2am I had had enough and decided it was time to get in the tub. I’d never had a waterbirth before and was amazed at the difference the tub made. I immediately relaxed and for the next few hours got into a rhythm.

The rhythm seemed exactly the same the entire time I was in the tub. I’d have a painful, intense contraction but never so intense I felt I couldn’t bear it. People took turns holding my hands through each contraction: Matt, Karen, Jen, Emme, Clare…they all took turns being with me and resting. Someone was fanning me…I remember looking at the magazine they were using. It was Time, and Obama was on the cover. Wasn’t the primary tomorrow? We would miss voting, but no matter. My baby was coming.

I stayed in the same rhythm: contraction, breath, let out the sound, let out the pain, drop down my jaw, squeeze whomever’s hands I was holding. Ask to be fanned, ask not to be fanned. Fall asleep, wake up three minutes later and start all over again. Check baby’s heartbeat now and again. Everything is good.

I kept waiting for it to get as intense as it did with my first two births, but it never did. I started to feel frustrated. What was taking so long? The sun was starting to come up. My boys awoke and came downstairs with Jen to see what was happening, then they went up to watch TV.

The frustration became worse. My first births had been done by now, and my water hadn’t even broken yet. Clare and Emme suggested that maybe it was time to get out of the tub and move around a bit. I had been in there for a few hours now and maybe a change might help get things moving.

As I climbed out I was hit with the most intense rush of pain I had felt all night. “No, I have to get back in.” But suddenly my water broke and I felt my baby drop down, and I knew it was time. I got back in and got ready to push.

I could feel my baby’s head moving down. I tried to take my time, to push slowly and relax as I wanted to avoid a tear. But he was ready to come out and he was coming pretty fast. Jen brought the boys back downstairs and I could hear Emme tell Matt to get ready to catch the baby. As I pushed my baby out, I could feel Matt grab him and push him through the water and up into my arms. He let out a loud, vibrant cry as I held him tight and cried right along with him. My beautiful baby was here, I knew it was a boy, I didn’t even check right away to be sure. I just held him and soothed him as Emme checked his vitals and he was wrapped in towels to stay warm.

My older boys were so sweet. They both touched baby’s head, and smiled. My five year old was gleeful. My two year old said the one line I will always remember, “Can we go watch Bob the Builder now?” I guess having a new baby brother was no comparison with the treat of extra TV time!

The tub was cooling, so we climbed out onto the bed we had made up on the floor, next to the tub. It was the warmest feeling I’d ever had in my life. My baby in my arms, loads of blankets around me, the sun coming up and shining in my sunroom, everyone I needed right around me. I was able to just take my time and be with my baby. No one was in a hurry for anything.

It was time to push the placenta out. Emme checked it over and my five year old got to put on some gloves and help. I nursed my baby for the first time. Someone made some hot cereal and we all sat in the sunroom in a big circle, eating it and just enjoying the glow of a beautiful birth. I remember thinking to myself that this was exactly how I wanted it. Warm, peaceful and surrounded by people I knew, loved and trusted. I will always remember that beautiful feeling.

The Birth of Milo Paul

For a couple of days leading up to my labor, I had started to feel a little different – though not really in a way I could easily describe. It was just a feeling that things would happen soon. Paul also sensed that something was up, and commented that I even looked different. We had been going through a small to-do list of things to try to get done before the baby came, and Paul finished the last item on the list Tuesday night. He joked that it made him nervous to finish the list, since maybe I was waiting for it to be done to go into labor! That evening we also played with Silas (23 months old) outside for a long time – it was abnormally hot and sunny for Minnesota in May. I remember thinking about how happy Silas looked playing with our garden hose, and feeling that it was bittersweet how much his life would soon be changing.

I slept really well that night, and in the morning drove Silas to daycare at 8:00. I planned to use the day alone to plant some annuals in the garden and then relax. I got home and made some tea, and started to notice a few “signs” when I went to the bathroom. Around 9:00 I was feeling crampy so I called Paul and my sister to give them an early alert that something might be going on. I couldn’t decide if the cramps were contractions, but I started timing them using an online timer and found that they were somewhat irregular and between 3-6 minutes apart, lasting 30 -60 seconds each. I was still able to move around easily through them at this point, so I wasn’t sure if they were the real thing. I called our midwife Emme and also put her on “alert” – she thought it sounded like labor. Then, at her recommendation, I ate a breakfast of yogurt, granola and banana.

Paul decided to leave work and come home, as he was more convinced than I was that labor was imminent. He arrived home around 10:30, and by then I was feeling the contractions much stronger – I wanted to stop moving and breathe deeply when they happened. So I called Emme and asked her to come; she let the other midwife know and by 11:00 everyone was assembled. Clare listened to the baby (who was moving and having huge hiccups) and took my vitals. They helped us to fill the birth pool and they organized their supplies, and then made up some postpartum herbs in the kitchen. Then they offered to plant and water some annuals for me, since it was so hot and dry outside and the plants were wilting! Paul and I showed them around the yard and then went back inside. It felt good to be on my feet and moving, and every time a contraction would come I would lean against something and breathe through it. Paul was always nearby and would sometimes press or rub on my back. One time I got caught sitting down when a contraction came and was surprised to feel some pain – it felt so much better when I was standing up! As long as I was able to stand and move I felt strong and calm.

My midwifes came inside and said they would stay out of my way unless I needed or wanted them. My contractions had slowed a bit to 5-6 minutes between them, but they were getting very strong. I also felt some nausea at their peak. I asked Paul to come upstairs with me and I took a hot shower. The shower felt wonderful, but suddenly the contractions were happening very fast. I said that I wanted to get in the birth pool soon and had Paul ask Clare if that was ok – I was still worried that birth might be a long way off and I didn’t want to get in to soon. Clare and Paul started filling it, but filled it too hot at first and needed to add cold.

I remember suddenly feeling impatient, and my contractions were changing and feeling “pushy” and I was vocalizing/ grunting for the first time. I was finding it hard to communicate so finally I hopped in the pool but then just stood there. The baby felt so low, I couldn’t imagine how I could bend at all to lower myself! Finally I got on my knees and started to lean forward over the edge of the tub, holding Paul’s hands. He was out of the pool but was prepared to jump in with me. I was grunting and heard Clare say “she is pushing” and Emme came up the stairs at that point, surprised that I was already at that stage. I remember seeing Paul’s eyes widen in surprise, too. I felt a burning sensation, and for the first time all day I really thought – that hurt! Clare encouraged me to reach down and feel – and I was surprised to feel the unbroken amniotic sac protruding. An urge to bear down came and then the baby’s head came through, one more urge and the body followed. I never really did do any deliberate “pushing” per se. Clare (who was behind me) caught the baby as he floated up “in the caul” – the bag was intact and his eyes were open! She caught him and passed him under my legs and I brought him to my chest. The bag had now broken and he cried and wiggled in my arms, we were so happy! Suddenly everything else faded away and it was Paul and I together with our tiny amazing baby. It was 1:33 p.m, I had only been in the birth pool for six minutes, and less than three hours had passed since the midwifes had considered me in “active labor”. I guess the first thing I said right after the baby came out was “oh – that felt really good!”

I was helped out of the pool and we were dried off and wrapped up so that I could snuggle and nurse my new little boy Milo and birth the placenta. Milo really got with the nursing probably about 20 minutes after he was born and did great. My parents (who had planned to pick up our other son from daycare and bring him to the birth) arrived shortly after the birth, as did Paul’s mother. Clare and Emme made me scrambled eggs, gave me an herbal bath, and did a newborn exam where they weighed the baby on a newborn scale and checked his vitals. He was a perfect little boy! Paul got Silas from daycare to meet his new little brother. At first, Silas looked startled and shy, but then smiled and wanted to see the baby up close.

Everything went so well and so beautifully. My midwifes were so caring and wonderful and never felt at all intrusive, yet one of them was always somehow there right when I needed them. I loved the skin to skin time I had with Milo, nursing him right away, being in my own home, having Silas be a part of things, and all the comfort and independence I had. I am so glad that I did this and that my son got to enter the world in such a gentle way. I feel proud that I was able to give my son such a peaceful and loving entrance into the world.

Axel’s Birth Story

Axel’s birth was fast and furious! On Thursday night I had a midwife appointment, but after a day of shopping I was feeling tired and also started feeling sick. So I called and canceled the appointment and went to bed to rest. Sure enough, I opened my eyes at 2:20 in the morning to feel my bag of waters releasing. A lot of fluid came rushing out as I woke Dave—“it’s go time, honey!” I also promised 3 year old Avery that we would wake her when it was time for the baby to come—it was her job to announce the sex of the baby. So while Dave started making phone calls, I gently woke Avery with the news, “my water broke! The baby’s coming today!”

Dave called Emme and Clare with the news that my water had broken. Because of Avery’s 4 hour labor, we were sure that labor would start right away and that it would be even shorter. As we waited for people to arrive we went to the kitchen to have a snack and some tea. Avery got ready by putting her Snow White costume on. We also had invited both our mothers as well as our sisters to the birth. People started arriving at around 3:15—Grandma Diana, Grandma Denise, Auntie Alicia, Auntie Angie along with her son Owen. Our doula Rebecca who attended Avery’s birth was also with us for Axel’s.

Everyone had arrived and by 3:30, my contractions started getting a little more intense, so I moved from the kitchen to the bedroom so I could relax and lay down. They had been about 3 minutes apart, and by 4:00, they were about one minute apart and much more intense. Yes, the moaning had begun. Rebecca took her place down by the side of the bed as my hand holder and comforter, and Dave was on the bed with me rubbing my back during contractions. Most of the time the kids and grandmas were in the other room, so I wasn’t being distracted which was nice. Alicia and Angie were still in the bedroom, keeping a journal and taking video/pictures.

My contractions kept lengthening and intensifying—at one point I tried to move onto the birth ball because it felt so good with Avery’s labor—but it didn’t happen because contractions kept getting in the way of movement. At 4:22 I felt like I needed to go to the bathroom—so I got on the toilet and tried pushing a little—which felt OK. I was surprised that pushing was already starting to feel good—hadn’t labor just started? But I knew it would be quick. Sure enough, when I got back on the bed and on the birth ball, I tried pushing a little with contractions and it felt better. A few more minutes of work, and at 4:45 I started to feel Axel kicking inside me—the fetal ejection reflex had started! It felt like lots of tiny kicks really fast…and then my body just took over and pushed for me…I was like an observer as my body did the work instead of me…I was panting for breath as Axel started crowning…Avery came in along with both mom’s…I remember feeling, “boy this one hurts a lot more than the last one”…and it was a little slower going getting the head out…but finally the head was born and Avery shouts out “It’s a boy!” I was a little disoriented because I felt the rest of the body still inside me! What do you mean it’s a boy! But then with a little more effort, Axel came out completely…and I heard the others say “It IS a boy!” Axel started crying right away and as I laid down he was placed on my chest and covered up. I remember struggling to catch my breath and calm down—Axel’s labor was like a roller coaster ride with no seatbelt!

Making Leo: Erin shares Her birth story

Each time I tell my birth story it feels like an honor. I truly enjoyed giving birth – and being pregnant, for that matter. I’m super aware that many people do not have positive birth or pregnancy experiences and I’m not trying to be one of those annoyingly self-righteous parents who judges everyone that doesn’t have an orgasmic home birth. But, my birth experience was really great and special to me, far and away the best day of my life. For my daughter’s first year I thought about her birth multiple times a day, the sweetest, strongest memory I have ever had.

leo picSo, here’s what happened. My ‘due date’ was precisely November 25th and I know this because I got pregnant the gay way – through intrauterine insemination – which is about as planful as you can get with these types of things. The due date, which happened to fall on Thanksgiving Day, came and went, which I knew it would. My entire big family was in town from various cities for the holiday and my house was full of people. Finally, a couple days later some action started to happen. That morning, a Saturday, I had an early breakfast with my family at the hotel they were staying at and then I drove one of my sisters to the airport. After that I headed home to meet up with my then- partner and current co-parent, Abby, and she went with me to acupuncture. I had a long treatment that lasted about 1.5 hours. My acupuncturist put needles in my lower back and hooked me up to some electrical current machine, so I knew she meant business. I was ready to get this labor going. My mom, sister-in-law and I decided to go get manicures. Right before we left I went to the bathroom and saw that I had some red bloody show, and lots of clear mucus. It looked like I had a bloody jellyfish in my underwear, which was probably my mucus plug. I still wasn’t noticing any really strong cramps or contractions so I decided to just go about my day as usual, and surprisingly I don’t think I even told anyone about the exciting progress my body was making with the whole mucus plug thing. When we got home from our manicures Abby and her mom were watching college football on the tv, which always just makes me want to fall asleep. I went in the bedroom and took a quick nap while they watched the game in the next room. I only slept for ten minutes or so but it was a really good power nap. I woke up and we ordered pizza for dinner.

During the whole afternoon I had been having strong practice contractions and they were starting to feel a little more crampy. By evening I had really started to notice them more. At this point, I still had a lot of family hanging out at my house, including “The Moms” (my mom and my partner’s mom) and various siblings. I mentioned to everyone that I could feel some strong crampy feelings, but I didn’t want anyone to get too excited about it because it could just be pre-labor. Everyone kept asking me if I thought I was having contractions but all I could say was that I wasn’t sure what contractions were supposed to feel like, but the feeling I was having was like medium-strong period cramps. I realized they were happening pretty regularly, about every 10 minutes, so my mom and Abby decided they would start trying to keep track of how often the cramps were coming. I really didn’t want anyone to get too excited, just in case I wasn’t really going into labor, so I didn’t think it was that great of an idea for them to start timing things. In my head I was secretly watching the clock, though, and knew they were coming pretty regularly.

The pizza got there and we sat down and ate together. This was about 6:00 p.m. That’s when I really started to notice the cramps getting stronger. I could feel them in my back and low in my front, right above my pubic bone, and it felt like my uterus getting very tight. At this point I could still talk through them, but it was getting harder to not concentrate on them. I decided that I wanted to lie down on the couch and watch TV so I did. I think at this point I realized that I was really having contractions! We started writing down the timing. They were averaging about 7 minutes apart and getting stronger. After about half an hour I decided I should probably go upstairs and be away from my family. I had Abby ask everyone to be quiet because I felt like I really needed to concentrate and the noise was distracting. Abby and I went upstairs and I put on some comfy pants. I wanted to have something on the TV that I could zone out to, so we bought “Eat, Pray, Love” and I watched that for a bit. The contractions continued getting stronger and eventually I really had to close my eyes and breathe through them. The Moms came upstairs to check on me periodically and Abby stayed with me and started getting things ready for labor. Much of my family was still hanging out downstairs quietly waiting to leave on a bus to Chicago. At some point I went downstairs to say goodbye to them because I knew that soon things would be too intense to speak. I went back upstairs and walked up and down the room with a hot pack on my back.

The contractions got stronger. I spent some time on my hands and knees on the birth ball, but that wasn’t comfortable at all. The best position was standing and walking. Leaning on things during the contractions felt good. We had some conversation about when to ask our midwives, Emme and Clare, to come over. I kept thinking that things were going to get a lot more painful and intense and that labor could last for quite a while, so we better wait. The contractions got continuously stronger but they never felt like I couldn’t handle them. As they got more intense I started making more noise and that helped them feel better. Abby called Emme and asked her to come over. I got into bed on my side and put the hot pack on my back. I stayed like this, flipping from side to side and making noises through contractions until Emme got there. At some point while I was in bed I decided that I wanted to get in the tub. Abby went to work setting up the birth tub.

During the whole labor I didn’t want anyone to touch me or really talk to me, so I think people were not sure what to do to help. I also didn’t feel like being watched, so we had to ask The Moms to go downstairs. I have no idea how much time passed while they were setting up the birth tub, but I could hear people downstairs boiling water to put in it.

Once the tub was ready to go, I got in and the first contraction in the tub felt a lot less intense. I think the contractions started spacing out a bit in the water, too. I stayed in there for a while and then started feeling really tired. All I wanted was to lay my head down and sleep. I decided to get out of the tub and lay in bed for a while. Emme tucked me into bed and I tried to rest between contractions. The contractions at this point started feeling a little different. They felt a little “pushy” and I did not like it. I noticed my body starting to make more pushy noises at the peak on the contractions. I felt inside my vagina and could feel a bit of the bulging bag of water. It felt like a slippery soft water balloon inside my vag – super weird.

At some point our other midwife, Clare, showed up. I got out of bed. During one of the contractions I was leaning up against the dresser and I could hear my mom saying “that sounds like pushing!” which was really annoying to me at the time, so I told her to shut up. I might have even told her to shut the fuck up. (She still brings this up, and it’s been years.) I didn’t want anyone or anything getting in my head. I wanted to stay in my zone and get my job done without worrying about what other people were thinking or doing.

As the contractions became pushier I decided to get back in the tub. The pushing feelings during contractions were definitely the hardest part for me. There were a few times while I was pushing that I felt like I didn’t know how I would get through this. Even though the contractions themselves actually felt less painful during pushing, the pushing reflex felt super out of control and overwhelming. The best way I can describe it is that it felt like I was projectile vomiting out of my butt…like that feeling when you know you are about to throw up and there just isn’t anything you can do to stop it. But not pushing was not an option. My body was doing it on its own and my mind was pretty much just along for the ride. At some point I realized that instead of holding back against the pushing I needed to just dive into it and it would go faster and I could be done with it. It seemed like I was pushing for hours in the tub, but I think it was actually only about 1.5 hours all together. During each contraction in the tub I would feel inside my vagina and it was really helpful to be able to feel the baby moving down as I was pushing. I could feel a little bubble, which was the bag of water, and then behind that was her head. It was really cool. Feeling her head moving down definitely helped the pushing be more tolerable. During pushing I switched back and forth between floating on my back and squatting on my knees against the edge of the tub. As she moved further down it really started to BURN when I was pushing the hardest during contractions. That hurt, bad. With each push I could feel more and more of her head. After a few very burny contractions, I was sure that I had at least a few more to go before her head would come out, but all of the sudden her head popped out! It really took me by surprise and all I could say was “Head! Head!” Everyone sort of jumped up and went behind me to see what was going on. In my own head I was very relieved because I knew that the hardest part of pushing was over. And then I started to wonder what the body coming out would feel like. Her head was out for 3 minutes before the rest of her body came, which is a pretty long time. When I finally started feeling another contraction come, I started pushing as hard as I possibly could to get her out. I could sort of feel her shoulder coming out and someone said “the shoulder is out” and then the rest of her just slid out behind me in the water. Emme pushed the baby between my legs and told me to reach down and pull her out. I looked down and saw her in the water and picked her up and put her on my chest. She started breathing right away and was squirming around and I rubbed her up and down her back and talked to her. I didn’t cry, but later I was told that I kept saying “HI, honey!” to her over and over. I was still in shock because her head came out before I expected it to and it really felt like it all happened so fast after that. I wasn’t paying much attention to what was going on around me, other than the baby. I looked up and my whole support team was surrounding the birth tub. I couldn’t believe it was done! I did it! Leona was born at 3:30 a.m. on November 28, 2010. We got out of the tub and into bed. My placenta didn’t come out for 1.5 hours and I had to get a shot of Pitocin to help it come out. It turns out I had a bit of retained placenta so I bled a lot afterwards and had to take Methergine too, to help get the bits out of my uterus. It was pretty gross, but I won’t get into the details.

I seriously felt high on my birth for at least a year. Making Leo and growing her, and actually pushing her out of my body and catching her in the water was magic, power, and love. I feel so lucky that I got to have the birth that I did. I had the loving energy and support of my whole family surrounding me during my labor and I really trusted my body to do what it needed to do. I felt strong and able, and like a baby-making champion. I love to tell this story because it brings back the feelings I had in my body and the big sweet overwhelming sense of wellbeing and love for my baby. Oxytocin is no joke.