Our Journey Begins
From almost the moment I saw the two lines on the test telling me I was positively pregnant I knew I would make the very best of the coming months and my baby’s birth. In fact, the birth story of Heidi may as well begin her older brother’s ended. Gavin’s birth (minus the epidural and plus one doula), was rather standard for today’s American delivery.
Induction (at the request of an anxious doctor), nurses hovering around, masked faces, fetal monitoring machines strapping me to a hard bed, my perfectly healthy and alert son rolled away to the nursery for two hours…”its routine” the tart little nurse reminded me. The tearing…the blinding lights…the 48 hours my husband I spent in a cold room…the lack of privacy…the nurse who told me I “may not sleep with my baby.” While the result, a beautiful and healthy son, could not be more exciting – it was the experience as a whole that had me longing for something more…something more gentle for the next one I was carrying. And so with that first confirmation that life was inside me I began my quest for just that.
At 12 weeks pregnant with Heidi I went to the OB that delivered Gavin. I still had some lingering fears about my body’s ability to go in to labor with out induction and I also hadn’t quite decided that an out-of-hospital birth would be safe enough (later I eased that uncertainty with a little research that says… ‘in a healthy mom/baby, an out-of-hospital birth is just as safe as a hospital birth’).
I came to my initial doctor’s appointment with a list of requests… could I labor in water? could I go home immediately after birth? -No, no, and more no’s were her responses. I felt denied of my rights and my child’s rights. The helplessness I felt was just enough to remind me of that ‘out of control’ feeling that I had during the birth of Gavin. I was reminded to stay certain in my own body and to know that while hospitals and doctors do have a special place in making complicated births be safer, that I was going to trust in God, myself, my baby and my midwives to bring this baby in to the world.
So with the disappointment from that doctor’s appointment fresh on my mind, I turned to the amazing doula, Salli, that had helped me, guided me and reassured me through my son’s pregnancy and birth. She had since become a midwife and hearing her words of encouragement and positivity gave me just the right mentality to take my birth back! I took myself straight to the nearest birth center, where from the moment I walked in the door, I felt the warmth and love, the connection and the intimacy I so longed for!
Much like the pregnancy with Gavin, Heidi’s was easy. The difference was mostly emotional. I cherished the moments when she kicked and squirmed twice as much. I knew, because of the experience of Gavin, that these times were fleeting. And even though I took the time to enjoy her movements and imagine her often, it seems to have gone by in a flash. Long talks to my belly…baths watching my growing belly dance in the water…healthy eating…long walks… all gave me the feeling of closeness to her.
By 35 weeks I had asked to be checked for progress by my midwife. The excitement of hearing I was dilated and that my cervix had thinned out was wonderful! I had made a great effort to use as many natural aides to help my body begin to open (with out pitocin!): red raspberry leaf tea, an herbal tincture, sex, walking, pineapple and even simply telling myself to be open. Later I introduced evening primrose oils which worked obvious wonders.
But, telling myself to “open” might have been the most effective tool I used through out my birth journey. I used this positive meditation often and had the most pleasing results! To help her turn from a complete breech position I tried some suggested positions and I told Heidi to turn (she turned then) and when I wanted labor to get going almost a week after her due date I told her it was okay to come out (she came out then) and during labor when I felt her progress slow a bit, I told her to descend now (and she descended then). Tapping in to those powers of meditation and guiding thoughts was crucial for me.
For the days leading up to the labor I slept and slept and slept. For hours a day I napped- morning and evening and then I would sleep 11 hours at night. The day of the evening I went in to full labor I took an hour and half long nap on the couch in the morning (posting my son up in front of cartoons on replay). As soon as Corbin pulled in the driveway after a long day at work, I was passing Gavin off to him so I could retreat for a second hour and half long nap. The tiredness was beyond me or anything I could deny!
I also ate … A LOT! Mostly starchy food… and it was quite obvious that this carbo-load of a marathoner’s proportion was going to help me get somewhere. That night after Corbin and I put Gavin to bed for the night, my contractions began to get some power. The warm feeling in my core (to the point of being sensual) and the tightening around my waist that I had sort of enjoyed, was beginning to take on a more intense form (requiring my attention and energy). I tried to play it off and relax on the couch. I turned on the news and Corbin made a joke about the cheese-factor of local reporting and all of sudden my hilarious man, was anything but funny! And with that, I knew this was labor.
Get a Beer
I called my midwife shortly thereafter. “Get a beer. Get in the bath,” she said. A moment to close the door behind me in a candle lit bathroom with a nice frothy beverage was welcome! Alone with my little one, I wondered if this was false labor but deep down I knew that this was really it. And at that moment, one thing I learned is that men have this instinct too! For weeks, with both of my labors, but very often with Heidi’s pregnancy, I would call Corbin at work and tell him “Somethings different! I think maybe tonight is the night!” Usually he would pass it off, but this night, with out me even telling him much, he was in labor-mode- and I mean, the man was full-on nesting! From behind the bathroom door I could hear the vacuum cleaner running in the house – 10 PM and my husband is vacuuming – the baby IS coming!
Salli showed up at my house as I was coming out of my bath (and beer) moment. She had driven to my house, a good half hour from her own home, at 10 PM just to check on me. Over the phone I hadn’t been entirely convincing that this was really labor. Her coming all that way says a lot about the amazing care that a midwife provides. If it wasn’t labor, she said, “I’ll just come rub your back for a while.”
But, the moment I heard her voice as my husband greeted her cheerfully at the door I felt a serious contraction. Then, she came to my room and almost as if her presence was a powerful induction drug, a super hard contraction brought me to my knees. I really knew then that this was it. I told myself, “Lets get ahead of this – lets manage this – you are strong Mary!”
The way the body works in unison with the mind is fascinatingly beautiful. When I saw Salli I felt “safe” and “ready to let go” and with that my true labor began. She checked me for progress. I was amazed to hear her say I was already 6 or 7 cm and 100% effaced. I had literally slept through my early labor. It had probably been going on over the course of the last couple days and while I slept and mowed through our pantry, I was well on my way to having Heidi.
The Birth Center
The sight of the birth center and the team of midwives coming to greet me at my car, sent my body in to another round of even harder contractions. The front seat where I sat, glued to the handlebars, seemed like a mile from the front door. One midwife’s apprentice greeted me at the car door and asked “Do you want to have this baby in the car?” It was tough love and it was excellent timing. It sort of pissed me off, just enough to make me get up and move it inside. Those contractions that happened about five minutes apart on the car ride came only two or three minutes apart now.
The bath was being prepared for me when I walked in. I undressed myself and stepped in. The relief I got from the water was beyond me. The pressure was eased and I could catch my breath. For the first hour or so I kept my head pushed down in to either a towel or Corbin’s lap on the side of the tub. He and the other midwives shared turns massaging my back and quietly offering me water or food. It was as if everyone watched over me- sending me powerful affirmations with their presence while trying not to interrupt the steadiness of my labor with their noises. Only occasional whispers, the sound of flowing water and the soft music were audible.
In such an emotional place where the senses are so powerfully present it is easy for them to be aggravated – I found most of my peace in sound – be it lack of it or the existence of it. At one point an ambulance, with it’s sirens blaring drove by the birth center to or from one of the nearby hospitals. That was a weak moment and one where I questioned myself and my sanity. For even a second of doubt, where my mind was thinking “Oh, take me on that ride…to the medication!” was a set-back. But, as the sirens grew distant, I collected myself and my peace was restored.
The music I took solace in listening to was from the CD that I rocked Gavin to bed with every night for the many months before labor. The visualization of that sweet sleeping boy with his blond curls and long lashes, was so comforting. Two of the songs brought me to tears. I pictured Gavin as he would be when I was rocking him. I imagined him lying curled up in his crib, hugging the bumper, dreaming sweet dreams about balloons and playgrounds. Peace overcame me and the love hormones were obviously in full effect!
At some point the head midwife, Alissa, a very knowing and experienced presence was sitting very hands off and quiet at the end of the tub. She had been watching over me from a distance and asked me to check myself to feel the for Heidi’s head. I did and the smooth feeling of the bag around her head was only as far as my half of my pointer finger- an inch or so. I had not pushed and the baby was already well on her way out. She asked if I wanted to push and with a few contractions and I tried, but the effort was highly uncomfortable.
Alissa had known that from previous appointments when I was checked that my cervix was still not in best position. For some, the midwives and doctors will manually reach in and move it (ouch!) but Alissa suggested I move from the only position I’d tried (squatting against the tub) to floating on my back. The change was welcomed. My legs got a rest and now my mother came behind me to hold my arms as I began to push. No other leverage was needed.
I felt the calmness around me… the newborn nurse (Christy) was prepping in the corner for my baby to come, the midwives all moving in close to bring me assurance and preparing to help me once the baby was born and Corbin, who was the rock I needed most of all. That I can remember, I was only checked by a midwife for dilation twice during labor- once at the house and once while in the tub – 9 cm was the reading for the second check.
The “urge” to push never came over me so doing so felt a little unnatural but with in a couple soft pushes, the bag broke and my baby was crowning. Corbin prepared to catch his daughter and at 1:59 AM he brought her up from the water.
As soon as she ascended she took her first breath. They laid her on my chest and I told her out loud that I loved her. The room was dim – the people around me were all familiar and loved. Heidi calmly looked at me and I at her- not distracted by the world while we waited for her cord to finish it’s work. When she had finished getting all of the last of what my body had to offer, a proud father cut the cord. Everyone we loved circled around and shared in our joy as we celebrated the beautiful baby. I was proud of her and myself. Corbin took Heidi in his arms to the hallway right outside my door and while everyone met the newest member of our family – I easily delivered an intact placenta. The red of it is shockingly beautiful!
I was moved to the bed where I rested against the pillows and the midwives checked my stats. Heidi and Corbin returned and climbed in beside me. I drank and ate and nursed Heidi. The nursing came so natural- not a struggle at all – I knew of course what to do because I had done it before, but it amused me to see her latch on as if she’d had some experience before too. The midwives left us alone and our families went back to their homes. Corbin and I watched over Heidi in awe of the whole process – thankful to God and tired. Two hours after her birth, we were given the go ahead to leave. My body was never sore (I think because of the water) – not a single tear – I felt amazingly refreshed. The three of us drove home happily and slept for two hours or so before Gavin woke up. Introducing him to his little sister was such a beautiful moment!
It is amazing how much bigger my son seemed right then. Corbin brought him in our room to see his sleeping sister. He wanted to touch her and was so excited. I will never forget that excitement!
Heidi is now a beautiful, happy little toddler! When she is grown I hope to tell her often about the journey of her pregnancy and birth and the lovely experience she and I shared for so many months together.
This birth story was borrowed, with permission, from the mother’s blog.