The Day Walter Arrived

It was May 9th, 2010, my due date. One of the things I love about the end of pregnancy is that you wake each day not knowing if your world will change that day. I had woken each day for the past few weeks with that thought, but on my due date I thought, “Well, not today.” Less than five percent of babies are born on their due date, so I figured if there was any day when I wouldn’t go into labor, it was today.

I was out of sorts from the first minute. My hormones were raging. I tried to play Chutes & Ladders with the kids while Andrew visited his mom. I was so irritable that I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t seem to tolerate that Bel wanted to go up the chutes and down the ladders. I knew I was hormonal, and I blamed it on my psychological reaction to waddling around on my due date. My mood lifted when all four of us went out for lunch. I remember the warm sunshine. It was one of those glorious first summer-like days of the year, and I loved it. We ate lunch at D’Amico, crowded around a tiny little table. Andrew pointed out that this would be one of our last family meals at a table for four. Hmm… we were going to be a bigger family soon! I reached down with my left hand and felt Darth’s feet on my left side. He was completely ROT – his back was directly down my right side, and his feet were popping out my left. I enjoyed touching his feet.

Andrew and I decided to skip grocery shopping that day. Our house was pretty much void of food, and we had made an effort to keep ourselves reasonably stocked at the end of the pregnancy so that we would be sure to have food on hand for our family postpartum and for ourselves and our birth team. I brought this up as we walked up our front steps after lunch. I also mentioned offhandedly my moodiness. But whatever – it’s my due date, right? If there was ever a day I wouldn’t go into labor, it was on my due date.

I celebrated my due date with a bar of dark chocolate and a run around the lake. I’ve always enjoyed running while pregnant. It loosens up all the achy parts and gives me energy. The looks from strangers usually fire me up, too. Of all my pregnancy runs with the three kids, though, this one was my favorite. The sun shone through the leaves. The lake was sparkling with reflected sunlight. It seemed the whole world was out for a walk with their mom. I felt energetic and graceful. It was absolutely wonderful. I wondered how many more runs I would get in before giving birth. When I went for a run on Frank’s due date, I was a cranky bitch. I think I growled at someone who gave me a funny look, and I said to myself that I hated the lake and the sun and that I was more than ready to have a baby. I was in the exact opposite mood on this run and felt like I could handle a few more runs before going into labor.

One woman looked at me with her eyes popping out of her head. “WOW! You go, girl!” When I met her again on the opposite side of the lake, she asked, “When are you due?” I can’t tell you how fun it was to watch her reaction when I responded, “Today!” as I ran on past. That’s right! STARE ON!

Our neighbor lady chatted with me as I returned home. She said that she had all three of her kids on their due dates. Really?! What are the odds of that? I said something about feeling too good to go into labor today but that given the time and my history of fast labors (Bel was a rocket ship), I could still pull off a birth on my due date. I knew, though, that I felt way too good to go into labor soon.

But that was about to change.

It wasn’t long after I got back that I started to feel that late-pregnancy walking-impediment. You ladies know what I mean. This is the feeling at the end of pregnancy when your baby drops way low into your pelvis, and it’s hard to walk. In about an hour I went from running around the lake feeling as light as a feather to hardly being able to take two steps. “Whoa, Andrew. I think Darth dropped again.” He had dropped and bounced back up several times in the last month or two. “Wow. I think I may be done running with this pregnancy. Whew.” I repeated this message several times over the afternoon. In hindsight, I wonder if I wasn’t having contractions, because sometimes I could walk just fine and others I would be stopped in my tracks.

Late in the afternoon I joined the kids outside on the sidewalk in front of our house. Another curious neighbor came over to ask about when the baby was coming. (I hate that question.) And this is when the kids started acting strange. Kids and pets are tuned into nature better than the rest of us are, and they usually sense labor before we mothers do. Frank started acting funky, and then he peed his pants there on the sidewalk. At about that exact moment I felt something come out of me. I immediately wondered if it was a mucous plug or maybe some amniotic fluid. Or maybe it was my imagination. But I wanted to find out, so I scooped up Frank, and we went inside.

I found a spot the size of a quarter in my underwear. It didn’t seem like mucous, but there were no other signs of fluid leaking. Hmmm. I went back outside. It happened again. It continued to happen all afternoon. I’d change underwear, and twenty minutes later, another spot would appear.

Now, hindsight really is the clearest lens. I felt this stuff coming out every twenty minutes or so. Stupid me – I didn’t realize that I was having contractions, and the contractions were pushing out this stuff. I figured it wasn’t fluid since when I laid down, the stuff continued to come out every so often while I was lying there and didn’t change when I stood up. (Amniotic fluid that is leaking will pool in your vagina and will pour out when you stand.)

I didn’t say anything to Andrew. I figured it was nothing to get excited about since I couldn’t really go into labor on my due date, right? That would be so un-doula of me.

So, the kids had to sense something, because they were acting weird. Bel was super clingy and needed to cuddle with me on the couch while I tried to nap. We watched some stupid wedding show on cable. I hate those things but for some reason, that’s the only thing Bel would agree to watch besides Sponge Bob. She was practically smothering me she was so clingy.

After dinner we watched a nature show. Frank usually loves these, but instead of watching, he went completely berserk. He started biting and yelling and flung himself into things. It was completely out of character, and Andrew had to take him away and brought him upstairs to bed. Frank was acting so wild that Andrew skipped the bedtime story. We read stories to our kids before bed every night with the only exceptions being when they fall asleep in the car after a night out and we carry them sleeping to their beds. I knew that the situation was extreme if Frank didn’t get a story before bed. Strange.

Bel went to bed shortly after, and as I came back into the living room, I said to Andrew, “Something is happening.”

Andrew looked at me and smiled.

Now, I have to contrast this reaction with Andrew’s reactions to similar news on the other two labors. With Bel, he looked at me blankly and said, “You say that all the time.”

“Yes, but one of these times it will be real, and this seems real.” The blank expression stayed on his face (denial) as he later crawled into bed while I was on the phone with the hospital.

When I said the same thing with Frank, Andrew flew out of bed and was a tasmanian devil swirling around cleaning the house.

But this time he just smiled and sat back in the living room cozy chair. I told him about the stuff coming out. While I still felt like this was probably nothing, we agreed that I should call Clare, one of our midwives. We had two midwives, and I decided that when it came to labor, I would call Clare since she lived only a mile away from us.

Clare agreed that what I was feeling was likely not amniotic fluid but that given I was GBS positive, it would still be prudent to check my temperature periodically throughout the evening, if I happened to wake at night, and again in the morning. I hung up with Clare expecting to call her in the morning. I also called Sarah, our doula. She was out for a walk with a friend and said that she’d have only one glass of wine after the walk. I laughed and told her not to hold back for me, that this was probably not labor. She didn’t seem convinced of that, but I was.

Andrew and I settled into our cozy chairs and watched our recording of the previous night’s Saturday Night Live with Betty White. We don’t normally watch SNL, but we figured Betty White would be pretty funny. She was, and we laughed. It felt good.

We decided to go to bed. Andrew was brushing his teeth as I walked to the bathroom. When he looked at me, he stopped brushing, and said, “You’re in labor.”

“Nah, I don’t think so. I’m just really uncomfortable.”

“Honey,” he said, “I’ve seen you give birth twice. I know what you look like when you’re in labor, and you look like that now.”

“I don’t think I’m in labor. I’m just feeling achy for some reason…” And that’s when I noticed it. I paid attention to the ache I was feeling, and realized what it was. My uterus was tight, but it was different than the tightening of Braxton Hicks contractions. This was a tightening and ache that went straight to my core. It came from my base chakra and radiated red energy through my pelvis. It was a familiar sensation, one I remembered. I stopped mid-sentence with the realization of it, and as I looked at Andrew, he wiped his face on the towel and repeated, “Honey, you’re in labor!”

As if to drive the point home, I found the mucous plug when I went to the bathroom. Then I felt another contraction as I walked down to bed. I tried to text a message to Sarah and our photographer Emily R (also a doula), but my head was already foggy with hormones. I couldn’t remember how to spell “mucous,” and when I asked Andrew how to spell it, he laughed and said, “Wow. YOU ARE IN LABOR! Look at you!” Emily asked how soon after losing my mucous plug I went into labor with Bel and Frank. I responded with, “A few hours.” She said she’d keep her phone close.

I sent a similar text to Emily A and Anna, our friends who’d come to watch the kids. That message was simpler for me to type. It said, “Heads up – rumbling.” My contractions were about 5-10 minutes apart.

Andrew and I were giddy. We wondered what Darth would look like. We thought of the 24 hours ahead of us. Then we were serious. We talked about our fears. I honestly cannot tell you what Andrew’s fears where. (I guess I was preoccupied with mine.) I do remember what I told him about my fears. I knew the work I had ahead of me, and I was scared. I knew I could cope. What scared me is the loss of control. You see, you can’t say when you are ready for the hard stuff. It just happens whether you are ready at that moment or not. You kind of get dragged into labor, and you have to be ready to go with it. I knew it would be hard. I hoped my preparations would pay off with the coping tools I knew I would need.

We decided to listen to my Hypnobirthing track. It was about 10:30 pm. I had practiced with this track often enough that it was fully effective with me. I don’t think we got more than 30 seconds in when I fell into a sleep. I say “sleep,” but it’s not really sleep. I was in a deep state of relaxation. Once the track ended, I woke again, like I always do when the track ends. I felt calm and confident.

I decided to go to sleep, but every time I’d drift off, I’d get a contraction. They started to feel stronger, so I decided to time them. I’d snooze, and when one started, I’d open an eye to check the time.

Seven minutes.

Six minutes.

Five minutes.

Things felt stronger. I wondered if I should call someone. With Frank, I called our midwife when the contractions were 6-7 minutes apart to let her know what was going on. She said she wanted to come over despite that I felt like it was too early because she felt that with a second baby and my history of a fast labor, she preferred to come over. This time I didn’t feel like I needed help, but I wondered if I should call under the rationale that our last midwife had. I decided to wait until midnight. That was about 40 minutes away.

Four minutes.

I recalled Bel’s birth where contractions started just like this, and once I hit active labor, she was born within an hour. Frank’s labor started more slowly and was a longer, normal birth. This was like Bel’s labor.

Three-to-four minutes.

It was only 11:42 pm, and I said I was going to wait until midnight before calling anyone.

Three-to-four minutes and stronger.

At 11:54 pm I decided that this was too similar to Bel’s birth and I that I better call someone. I went upstairs, pausing part way up the steps with another contraction. I went to the bathroom and found bloody show.

Any doubt was gone. This is labor.

I called Clare at midnight and told her what was going on. She said she’d call Emme and would be on her way. I called the rest of the team, too. I woke Andrew and told him what was going on.

I turned on our exterior light. I settled onto the birth ball, rested my head on our dining table, and waited.

As the birth team started to arrive, my labor slowed down to a trickle.

The midwives assess Darth and me, they set everything up, and we waited. I don’t know how slow my contractions were at that point, but things had definitely slowed down considerably. Bit by bit people went to sleep.

Except Clare. She did yoga.

Actually, I took a snooze, too. I took three naps. The first Andrew was with me, and Sarah gave me a massage.FeyderBirth056

The second nap Andrew was asleep downstairs, so Sarah cuddled with me. The third I rested alone and listened to my Hypnobirthing track. In between rests I would walk around a bit and talked with Clare and Emily R. Emily was our photographer, but she’s also a doula and played that role for a bit while Sarah slept. For a while I sat on the ball, and Emily held a hot back on my back. Clare stayed with me and offered words of support. It was absolutely lovely.

At about 2:30 am I started to feel shaky and emotional. I wanted to see the kids. I crawled up the stairs as fast as I could between contractions. Once I got up there, strong, frequent contractions returned. You see, women give birth effectively when they feel safe and secure. We need to build our nests. For me, that meant having my family with me. I wanted my kids to be with me. So, once I got up to their rooms, I labored more effectively. I probably should have stayed up there, but I didn’t. I sat with Bel for a minute and told her I loved her and was proud of her. I wasn’t worried about her at all. I knew she would adjust well.

I had a harder time with Frank. He’d been my little man – my baby. I was worried about how he would adjust. I wanted to sit with him for a while, but the contractions were coming fast, and they were more than I could handle sitting down. I decided I needed to get downstairs. I stood at the top of the stairs, daunted by the thought of going down them. I waited for a contraction to pass, then I RAN down those stairs. I did NOT want to get a contraction half way down.

Clare commented on how I was able to go up and down those stairs pretty quickly. I laughed. I know – labor wasn’t kicking in just yet. But it sure felt that way upstairs!

In another between-nap moment, I chatted with Clare and Emily R in my darkened birth room. I expressed doubt about whether I was really in labor. Clare pointed out that I was in labor, but nobody would tell me how far apart my contractions were. I could have looked at one of the many clocks in our house, but labor hormones have a way of diminishing cognitive abilities. I never thought to look at a clock.

I realized at that moment that I was standing with my cheek pressed against the wall because the wall was cool. I saw myself from Clare’s eyes, and yes, I definitely looked like a woman in labor. We talked about what might be holding me back from kicking into a more active labor pattern. I talked a bit about my fears. I had already talked with Clare and Emme prenatally about how fast Frank descended during his birth. Once my water broke, he barreled his way out. It was a bit overwhelming, and Clare coached me prenatally on how to slow down the pushing stage of this birth (hence the Hypnobirthing). I also talked about how hard it was to say goodbye to this pregnancy because it was my last. She listened and acknowledged how normal this was. I felt emotional. I decided to lie down. It was about 4:00 am.

This was my third and last rest on the mattress on our floor. This is the one where I was alone and listened to my Hypnobirthing track. I went into my hypnosis-induced state of deep relaxation. I had four contractions during the track, so my brain figured out that contractions were about seven minutes apart. The last contraction was pretty strong and woke me out of my relaxation. I must have made a noise with it, because Clare and Emily R stopped talking. I see Clare noted this in my record, too. It was 4:36 am.

I got up. I walked a bit. The rest of the group started to wake up, and Emme rubbed my back.CwI_FsTODRN4mCrJRB8JBdqrfD1Bxrf-3UMqKzgFFo7LDCi65serKNNAk9PHNyTazg4BWA=w1229-h758

I went into the bathroom about 5:00 am. With my work schedule at the time, this was my usual waking time. So, I think my body started waking up per its usual routine. As I washed my hands, I felt a burst of energy. I looked at myself in the mirror and said, “Let’s do this. Let’s have a baby.”

I turned on the iPod. I had two playlists: 1) Birth – Soothin’ and 2) Birth – Rockin’. I chose Birth Rockin’. The first song was “I’ve Got a Feeling” by Paul McCartney. Remember when I wondered what my birth song would be? Oh, well. This is it. The music started, and I smiled. Almost immediately, I heard the patter of feet upstairs. Bel and Frank were up, and I met them at the stairs. Remember I said I needed them with me to complete my nest-building before I could go into labor?Well, I met them at the bottom of the stairs and was promptly doubled over by a contraction that was so strong I had to stop and focus.

I was so happy to see the kids. They were surprised to wake to a house full of people. They knew everyone, though, and knew immediately why they were there. Bel was excited.

I held Frank on my lap and worked through the tougher contractions that were now rolling in pretty frequently. Someone made me some toast, and I ate.

I went to the kitchen and swayed through contractions. Sarah and Emme continued to rub my back. Clare asked if we should wake up Andrew. I looked at the clock – 5:30 am. I thought that it would be good for him to sleep until 6:00, which is what time he normally wakes up. We let him sleep.

I went to the bathroom and got to fully appreciate the benefits of laboring on the toilet. The contractions started coming faster (2-3 minutes), and I hardly got a break. I remember shaking my head side to side, thinking, “No… no…” I was confused by that reaction. I didn’t want contractions to stop, but I still shook my head in protest.

The familiar wave came at the same time as a contraction. The toilet was right next to me, but I could not bend over to get to it. I yelled out for someone to help me, and Emme came running in with the closest suitable container she could find – our sauce pan. There I was, barfing into our sauce pan while I stood over our toilet. I was so frustrated. I could feel the toilet against my leg, and I was barfing into our cooking pot.

Clare and Emme’s notes say this was at 5:42 am and that I was in the tub by 5:44. I decided I didn’t care if I was going to be in labor for another ten hours, I wanted my tub. I stepped in and felt the warm water calm my body and my soul. Immediate relief.
I cannot say enough how effective warm water can be during labor. I stretched out in the tub and felt immense relief. I moved around and labored in all the positions I had practiced. I laughed. I enjoyed the massages that Sarah and Andrew gave me.Ev6UPC7PSyiy-Yd9Rz80rAHktWrzdojQmOZqOkmkCRVWWuvfXG3d3uFmdhR4E4WJNFM_Ig=w1229-h758

I started to feel Darth moving lower. I felt myself working. I know I’m getting closer, but my contractions still feel irregular. I wonder why things aren’t kicking into high gear.

At one point I laugh because I can feel Darth kicking out the front on my belly. Everyone watches. “Can you see that?” Yes, everyone can see it through the water. Wow. In hindsight, this is a clear indicator that Darth is completely posterior. He’s facing my belly and not my back. Perhaps that’s part of the reason why my labor was a bit slower and erratic? Who knows. I keep plugging along.

At 6:30 am I get out of the tub to go to the bathroom. I decide promptly that I’m not going to get out of the tub again. It is harder to labor out of the water, and I like it better in the tub.

I go completely into laborland. I’m focused on each contraction, and I doze between them. I hear my playlist Birth – Soothin’ playing in the background. I sign along with Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah” and Donna De Lory’s “He Ma Durga.” Before Walter was born, I saw a birth video of a woman who song psalms through her entire labor. I said I’m not a singer, but I bet I dance my way through. Well, I didn’t dance, but I sang.

He ma Durga
I want to love through your love

He ma Durga
I want to feel what you feel

He ma Durga
I want to see beyond this illusion
to what is real

I remember dozing between contractions with my face just above the water. The tip of my nose and the third eye on my forehead touched the surface. Peaceful.

I feel Darth getting lower. My sacrum stretches with each contraction. I do what I practiced. I tell myself I’m soft, and I open my back with the contractions and let him come down. I feel confident – I can do this.

I talk to my baby. I tell him we’re okay. “Baby, baby, baby,” I say. I remind him we are in this together. “Gentle, baby. Gentle.”

The kids pop in and out. People talk quietly every now and then. The sun starts to come up, and light comes through the window. Andrew points this out and says that it’s a beautiful morning to celebrate a birthday.

At about 7:15 am I had a monster of a contraction, and a ton of bloody show comes out. Emme and Clare had been checking in on Darth throughout the labor, and when they checked again. I hear them whispering. I sense something is wrong. I ask what’s going on. They tell me that Darth’s heart rate dropped pretty low with a contraction, and they’d keep an eye on it. He probably didn’t like the position I was in. I moved back to my hands and knees. They monitored closely, and his heart rate was fine after that, and they continued to reassure me, which I liked.

I continue to move around, and I get tons of care from my support team. I love it.

Around 7:30 contractions were stronger than ever. I had to really work through them, but I still felt like I was stuck in low gear. I couldn’t quite get the labor to move over the top. I was sitting in the tub, leaning back on the edge. Emme was supporting me. Sarah came back and took her place. At about 7:45 she suggested I do some lunges.

Hell no. I shake my head because I can’t get any words out. There is no way I’m moving. I can barely keep my coping techniques working as I am, and if I move, well, I don’t know what will happen.

But I know why she’s suggesting this. I need to help Darth move. Maybe he needs a final turn. Maybe he needs to turn his head. He needs me to help him move down and out. I sigh with resignation. I lean forward and put a leg out to the side and lunge.

I lunge. It sucks. I contract. It sucks. I switch to other leg.

A contraction comes on, and I NEED to sit back.

Another contraction comes, and I NEED to move onto my hands and knees. I have a contraction or two that fill my head with white light, and I want to escape. Another contraction comes, and I feel immense pressure. I hear myself grunt a bit. I feel pushy. I tell myself, “Peace and calm. Peace and calm.” I tell myself, “Breathe your baby down gently. Gentle gentle gentle.”

It’s about 8:00 am.

At 8:05, Emme asks me if I feel pushy. I say yes, and soon Andrew steps into the tub. I’m overcome with the contractions, but reminding myself to be gentle and to breathe down my baby help me get through the tough peaks. I don’t want an overwhelming pushing stage. I want this to be gentle.

I’m leaning onto Andrew while on my knees, and he’s kissing and hugging me. Every time a contraction comes, I grip his legs and let the intensity of the contractions push me forward into him as I keep everything inside me peaceful, calm, and gentle. I hear Clare using the words we discussed at our prenatal visits. “Peace and calm, Rebecca.”

When I am overcome, I swear. I say, “I hate this part!” I do. I really do. But I also love it, because it is in this moment that I find strength that I didn’t know I had. I do it. I give birth.

I am not pushing. I am breathing. I don’t know if my baby is coming down. Emme asks me to feel if there is a baby’s head crowing yet. I’m surprised by this question – so soon? I don’t feel anything. Not long later (one contraction?) Emme asks me to feel again. I feel a baby there!

Somebody points out that my water hasn’t broken. Emme asks if I felt the caul (the sack) over my baby’s head. I have no idea. I’ve felt one or two baby heads as they’ve emerged (not mine), and the water had always broken first. I don’t know what a caul feels like. At that moment, as if on queue, my water breaks. Everyone watching oooohs and awes at the sight of a cloud of vernix in the water. It’s 8:20 am.

At 8:21 I keep breathing and try to keep my body moving as gently as possible. I feel with my hand again and this time feel Darth’s head. It’s soft like a newborn’s head is when you kiss it. It’s so familiar. It’s so – baby.

At 8:23 I’m talking to Darth, “Gentle, gentle, gentle baby. Soft. Come down, baby. Gentle.” We gently move through each contraction. When I feel overcome, Sarah and Clare give me my words.

Breathe – gently, now.

We take our time. I do not rush. I feel so much pressure. My voice swings from low to high as the pressure builds. Emme asks me if she’d like her to check for a cord around Darth’s neck. I say yes. She tells me that after that, it’s all me, because I’m catching my baby.

At 8:30, another contraction comes, and I try to stay soft and peaceful. Someone says his head is out. I reach down and feel his head, his hair, his face, and his ear. My baby! Oh, my baby. There is really a baby there!

In that one moment, I recall every wiggle and kick of the months leading up to this. I know this baby. I cannot wait to hold him.

I don’t feel another contraction, and I say, “I can’t get it out.”

That’s right, I called Darth “it.” In three pregnancies, we were adamant about not referring to our baby as “it.” We always uses human pronouns. But here in this profound moment, I say, “I can’t get it out.”

Oh well.

Emme asks me to lean forward. I do. I push, and without thinking about any of this, I reach down and catch my baby. I feel his body, and I lift him up to me. I sit back, and our baby is between Andrew and me.water5

I look at his pudgy, scrunched up face and am completely overcome with love.

The next few moments take only seconds or minutes, but they feel like hours to me in my mind. Someone asks if we have a boy or a girl, I move a leg aside and see. I loudly proclaim, “It’s WAAAALLTTTER!”

Okay, so I totally stole Andrew’s moment. With each of our kids’ births, it’s been Andrew’s wish to announce the sex of our baby. The moments never played out like we planned, but their follies are the best memories of our babies’ births. With Bel, if you recall, he stood there in stunned silence and after several moments of silence, the nurse finally announced her sex. With Frank, he couldn’t decide if he wanted to say, “It’s a boy!” or “It’s Frank!” Instead, the memory of his awesome announcement of “It’s a Frank!” still makes us smile. And this time, well, I goofed it up and announced it myself. Andrew says he doesn’t care, and I know he doesn’t. I still feel bad, though. I got to birth Walt and hold him in his first seconds. And I stole the one thing Andrew had!

Soon Bel and Frank are there, too. We are all blissed looking at our newest Feyder. He doesn’t really open his eyes and won’t until the next day. He was a bit puffy from the birth. I still recognize his face, though, as if I’d always known it.

We get out of the tub and cuddle up on the mattress on the floor. The sun is shining through the window now, and we admire Walter. He’s nursing by 8:50 am, and Andrew holds him for the first time at 9:30 am. We relish calling everyone with the news. I loved calling my boss. Everyone at work had to know already, though, since Anna, Emily A, and I all work together and none of us came in to the office that morning. I also loved with Anna called our friend Rachel who lives in Maryland. I felt like she was there with us.

Emme and Clare continue to check on Walter and me throughout the morning. My blood pressure was a little high, which is apparently my norm for the end of pregnancy and birth. Other than that, we get stellar reviews. Soon, everyone goes home, and it’s just the Feyder Five cuddled up in our home. What an amazing day.

Happy birthday, dear Walter.

May 10th, 2010
8:31 am
8 lbs 6 oz
21 inches
14 inch head circumference

Emaline’s Birth Under a Blue Moon

pushOur second pregnancy was accidental. Jason and I had been indecisive for several years about whether and when to have a second child. But we were thrilled when we saw the positive pregnancy test. We knew right away that we wanted to have this baby at home. The hospital birth of our son five years earlier was a lovely and natural water birth but we couldn’t help but feel that it had been unnecessary for us to be in the hospital. So we made calls to several home birth midwives. Our first interview was with Trillium Midwifery and we felt an immediate connection with Emme. We didn’t end up interviewing anyone else.

Our prenatal care was amazing. Our appointments were at Emme’s home and each one lasted an hour, giving us time to talk and get to know our team. We brought Eliot to each appointment and he loved being a part of the process (and playing with Emme’s great toys). Having our appointments at Emme’s home, always with a warm cup of tea, where there was intimacy and comfort, was a blessing and wonderful preparation for birth. As I approached 40 weeks, I felt completely at peace and ready to meet the sweet baby in my belly.

water77My water broke on Monday night a little after midnight. It was 2 days before my due date. I hadn’t yet gone to bed, but after a quick talk with Emme, I laid down to try to get some sleep. Jason stayed up and filled the birth tub. I had intermittent contractions throughout the night and didn’t sleep well, mostly due to anticipation. Neither of us got much sleep. The next morning I got up early and went for a long walk with a friend, hoping that it would get things moving along, but there was no change. Emme came over around 10am to check on me and the baby. Everything was great. Emme commented that her head was so low that she couldn’t really feel it. We agreed to touch base later in the day.
After dinner that evening, Jason, Eliot and I took another walk. My contractions were becoming more regular and I was pretty tired. We talked with Emme and let her know that it was still stop and go. After making sure that our house was tidied up and everything was ready for the birth, we went to bed around 10pm. Around midnight, I felt like I couldn’t lay in bed anymore and I got up. I knew at that point that my labor had started in earnest. My contractions were still between 6-10 minutes apart but they were definitely getting stronger. I took a long shower and mentally prepared myself for whatever was to come. It was a Blue Moon that night and I spent a few minutes outside taking in the full beauty of the moon under which my daughter would be born (and getting a huge mosquito bite on my belly in the process).

After checking out the moon, I decided to sit on a birthing ball to see if it could help me get into a rhythm. I started my birth playlist and relaxed, while Jason and I chatted and kept track of my contractions. It felt so calm and peaceful and the birthing ball was definitely working its magic. Around 2:30am, we called our team and asked them to come over: Emme, Julie, Rebecca the second midwife, Margaret our doula, my friend Kristen who would be there for Eliot, and our birth photographer, Megan. Everyone showed up over the next forty minutes or so and we all got cozy in the living room. I was able to talk between my contractions and I continued to labor on the ball. I remember feeling incredibly comfortable, safe and surrounded in love at this point. We woke Eliot up around 4am to make sure he would have enough time to fully wake up before the baby arrived. It was important for him to see his sister’s birth. As my contractions started to intensify, Margaret suggested I try laying down in bed to rest for a couple of minutes. I agreed and we moved to the bedroom. The first contraction I had in bed felt so much more intense than all the others and I knew that I was ready to get into the tub. By this time, I was in a labor fog and had lost all sense of time. I got into the tub and remember that the water felt so warm and took the edge off the contractions, which were very intense at this point. I know that I labored in the tub for about an hour before I felt the need to start pushing, but at the time, it felt like only minutes to me. It is so incredible what birth hormones can do! I remember Margaret helping me through contractions and Jason and Eliot encouraging me. When I started pushing, I came out of the fog a bit and realized that Margaret was reading out loud a set of birth affirmations that I had written several days prior. I focused my mind on them as I allowed my body to open for my baby. After 4 or 5 good pushes, Emaline Ophelia was born at 5:55am. I distinctly remember hearing the song, The World Exploded Into Love All Around Me, playing from my birth playlist as she came into the world. Jason caught her while Eliot stood right next to him. The moment felt absolutely perfect to me, filled with so much love.water10

After the birth, Jason, Eliot, Emaline and I moved to our bed where we stayed while both Emaline and I were checked. She weighed 8 lbs and was 22 inches long. Emme guessed the weight exactly! By the time everyone left our home several hours later, everything was cleaned up, I had eaten, there were cold compresses in the freezer and perineal rinse in the fridge, and we were all tucked cozy into bed and ready to sleep.
Our home birth was everything we had hoped for and more. We were able to bring our daughter into the world in the most peaceful and loving way. Eliot was able to watch his sister’s birth. Jason was able to catch his daughter. I was able to labor in my own home, surrounded by my family and a care team that honored and respected the normal and amazing process of birth. We feel so incredibly blessed, both to have had the birth we did and because of the precious life that joined our family that morning.

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.

Esther’s Birth Story

Esther’s birth story really begins with the birth of Finn, her big brother. Finn was born in a hospital and caught by a doctor. I wouldn’t call his birth traumatic, but there were enough annoying things about the care that I knew I didn’t want to have our next baby in a hospital. It was a long labor that felt even longer because we spent all of early labor at the hospital, which meant a lot of pressure from the nurses that things needed to speed up. This time I really wanted to avoid that pressure. I also wanted to avoid two and a half hours of pushing on my back with a nurse yelling in my ear, resulting in a third degree tear. And I wanted breastfeeding to get off to a better start. The first few weeks with Finn were very stressful and full of anxiety because he didn’t gain weight, and we didn’t have the support we needed. So even though Finn’s birth was amazing in many ways (I actually managed to have a natural birth at a hospital with a 30 something percent c-section rate and 90 something percent epidural rate, even though I was a first time mom without a doula. At the time I didn’t realize what the odds of that were…) there were many things I wanted to be different this time.

Now fast forward two and a half years and a pregnancy with home birth midwives. I started having a few contractions and a tiny bit of bloody show on the day before my due date. It was exciting to get a few signs that something might be starting, but I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. I was absolutely certain that the contractions would stop when I went to bed, and sure enough they did. The following day I didn’t really have any contractions at all and when they started up again in the early evening I was pretty sure they would go away again like they had the night before. I was kind of in the mode of “ok, something is starting, maybe we’ll have this baby some time this week…” What’s funny is that I stayed in that state-of-mind, thinking I was in very early labor, up until an hour before Ester was born.

So I went to bed expecting the contractions to go away, but this time they didn’t. I slept for a little bit, but pretty soon I had to get out of bed for each contraction, and soon I had to lean against the wall. I wanted to try to sleep in between, so I kept bouncing in and out of bed. I decided to take a shower, hoping it would maybe slow the contractions down so I could sleep some more. That didn’t work. The contractions kept getting stronger and at 5 am I decided to wake up Geoff. I had reached the point where I didn’t want to do it on my own anymore. We timed the contractions for a while. They went pretty quickly from 6 to 5 to under 4 minutes apart, lasting about a minute. Geoff asked me if I wanted something to eat or drink, but I was feeling nauseous and didn’t want anything. The only thing I wanted to do was lean against the wall. At 6 am I decided to call Emme to let her know what was going on. But I wasn’t sure if I needed her to come over yet (remember, in my mind I still thought the baby would take a few more days…) so she suggested that I’d call her back in half an hour. Twenty minutes later I was unable to even make a phone call, but was able to utter, “call Emme now!” After that everything was just a whirlwind. Geoff tried to get the liner on the tub, which turned out to be more difficult than expected. And at 6:30 Finn woke up, so Geoff was simultaneously feeding Finn breakfast and trying to get the tub ready. All I could do was lean over a chair and make very loud, deep sounds. At Finn’s birth I had been pretty quiet during the whole thing, so the sounds were kind of surprising. But they felt absolutely necessary this time.

Both Emme and Clare arrived around 6:50. It was getting pretty clear that the tub wouldn’t be filled in time so Clare started setting up the futon. The plan had been to have the futon set up next to the tub as a place to rest after the birth, but we hadn’t had time to get that done. At 7 my water broke. The fluid was clear and the baby’s heart rate sounded good. I felt the baby move down and announced that this baby is coming now. I ended up on hands and knees on the floor, with Clare and Emme behind me. Now all of a sudden I felt really scared of the pain for the first time, but as soon as I said that out loud it felt better. Somewhere here our friend Noah came to look after Finn. I didn’t notice him coming but at some point during the pushing phase I asked if Noah was here, and he was. It was a big relief to know that Finn was being taken care of. As far as “pushing”, I didn’t really have to do any pushing at all. It was as if the baby was just moving down and out on her own, with an incredible force. And that force was kind of scary. Emme told me to reach down and feel the baby’s head, which was amazing. After the head was out things calmed down and all of a sudden I was waiting for the next contraction. Earlier it had felt like one enormous contraction, and now nothing was going on for about 40 seconds. Well, that next contraction did come. Out came the baby and Clare caught her. It was 7:16 in the morning of October 2nd. She was incredibly beautiful, and it was amazing to sit there on the floor and hold her in my arms. I was probably a little bit shocked since it had happened so fast. It felt like I didn’t know what just hit me. But at the same time I was very happy, and felt safe and protected in the care of my midwives and in my own home.

The placenta came out 30 minutes later, with very little bleeding. My big fear during the last part of this pregnancy had been post-partum hemorrhage, so it was a great relief that the bleeding was normal. Right after the placenta was out, our doula Holly came (who hadn’t had a chance to get here earlier since we had called her so late!) and jumped right in and provided great support during the immediate post-partum time. Finn and Noah who had been playing downstairs came up to meet our new baby. It was just such a relaxed morning and so nice to sit there in my own house surrounded by all these wonderful people that I know well. Especially after that whirlwind of a birth I really appreciated the calm. No packing up and moving to the post-partum room in the hospital, just the peace and quiet of an oatmeal breakfast among friends. With two kids!

Esther Viola, 7 lbs 15 oz, born October 2nd 2009 on our living room floor, assisted by our excellent Trillium midwives Clare Welter and Emme Corbeil.