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Elena and Tobias Come Home: A Twin Birth Story

Elena and Tobias Come Home: A Twin Birth Story

Jennifer McLennan shares with us the beautiful story of her twins’ birth in 2015. 

As I sit down to finally write into words the story of my twins’ birth, I am watching them sleep in their bed from my desk. They are about to turn one. They are strong and healthy and not a day goes by that I don’t send out a mental thank-you note to the universe for their vitality.  So, it’s obvious that this story has a happy ending, but to tell their story I need to backtrack to a not-so-happy time.

Between the birth of my son, Caio, in 2011, and the birth of the twins in 2015, I experienced two pregnancy losses; one at 13 weeks, and one at 7 weeks. The depth of grief I experienced completely blind-sided me. My world view and self perception were shaken, my confidence plummeted and my marriage was challenged. I felt guilty, lost and out of control. I turned inward for healing and really took the time to examine my reasons for wanting another child. I consulted with a trusted fertility specialist who suggested taking progesterone during early pregnancy if we wanted to try again. I did a lot of self work to arrive at a centered and healthy place, and as a family we decided to try one more time.

In March 2015 I took a home pregnancy test, and those two little pink lines showed up right away. Pregnancy after loss is such a cacophony of emotion: the excitement and joy is all mixed up with a lot of fear. I decided early on that I was going to focus on the things I could control, and do the best I could to let the rest go. I talked to that little being in my belly every day, and the thing I said most often was, “I love you already. Please stay if you can, but I understand if you have to go.” I created a small altar out of objects that were meaningful for me and tried to sit there for a few moments each day. As each week passed safely I added a new rock, shell or other item that felt right. We chose not to share this pregnancy with many people early on, but those in my intimate circle also gave me little things to place on the altar. This process was so empowering as it reminded me of all the support I had and helped me to stay centered through those passing early weeks. I tried to remember to just enjoy each moment with my baby, even if our time together was to be short. In keeping with the feeling of needing to stay very internal with this pregnancy, I did consult my midwife but chose to decline an early ultrasound.

The weeks went by; my altar grew, and so did my belly! A lot! By 10 weeks I was starting to get some raised eyebrows and sideways glances. When we did finally start to share the news, there was much whooping and cheering and hugging and people asking, “Wait…are you SURE about your dates??” By 16 weeks, our midwife did recommend that we go for an ultrasound as my uterus was measuring large (I was very sure of my dates!), to check for excess fluid or MULTIPLES. I have no family history of twins so I honestly didn’t think about the possibility very seriously.

As we entered the ultrasound office, my heart was in my throat. I was so excited to see this little one, and desperately wanted everything to be normal and healthy. The moment that his wand touched my belly, the technician said, “Oh look…twins!!!” I started to laugh and cry at the same time and my partner Julio was speechless, pale, and had to sit down. We got to see their beautiful spines and perfect limbs and Caio (then 3) asked again and again…two babies?? There are two babies in mamas belly?? I felt about the same level of incredulity.  When asked if we wanted to know the sexes we said, “Yes yes yes please” and discovered that I was carrying one boy and one girl. Walking out the office beaming and beaming, I couldn’t help but think: they came back. Two gone and two returned. An unforgettable day.

Knowing that this was now a multiple pregnancy, the focus of my meditations changed. I asked friends and family around the world to join me in holding the intention of full-term, healthy babies. I had to move through a lot of fear around the idea of having premature babies, and I was honestly terrified of a Caesarean section. Having had a beautiful experience with the home birth of my first son, I had assumed that a natural birth would be possible again this time around. The C-section rate with twins is extremely high here in Costa Rica where we live – around 98%. Working closely with my midwife (who had been with me for Cai’s birth), we decided against a home birth for the twins. After interviewing several OBs, we found a fantastic one who was willing to attend at a fully equipped birthing center, and to work with my midwife as co-caregivers. By this time I had come to a place where I was honestly fine with however these babies needed to come into the world. We made a plan for a respectful and loving caesarean, and a plan for a peaceful, natural birth. Whatever needed to happen for them to come earthside safely, that’s what we would do. I asked the babies to show us, when the time came, how they needed to be born. I learned so much from this process of birth plan re-creation. My belief in my right to choose a birth team of individuals with whom I felt safe, supported and listened to was reaffirmed, and my mind was opened to the potential beauty of Caesarean birth.

The pregnancy proceeded very normally. I followed the Brewers Diet for Twins (high protein, low sugar) hoping to avoid Gestational Diabetes. GD is common in multiple pregnancies, but never did develop in mine. I knew that position-wise the best chance for a natural birth would be to have both babies head-down. I added that request to our daily chats and meditations, and at each and every ultrasound, sure enough, both babies were head down. The weeks seemed to fly by, and pretty soon my belly was a party of bumpy knees and elbows. As huge as I was, I so so so loved feeling them dance around with each other. I truly felt my network of friends of family hold me and the babies up as we got closer and closer to full-term—36 weeks for twins.

We passed our full-term milestone and headed into week 37. My mum arrived from Canada, and it was such a relief to have her help. Then came week 38. I was overjoyed that they were now big, healthy babies, but things were starting to get really shockingly enormous and uncomfortable! At my appointment on Monday, November 30th, at 38 weeks 4 days, there was good news and bad news. Babies were in great shape, both still head-down with lots of water, and I was 1 cm dilated with a nice soft cervix! The bad news was that my blood pressure had started to climb. It was still in the safe zone, but needed to be watched closely. We had daily check-ups from then on, and every Braxton Hicks sent me into major excitement mode. I was so ready to meet these people already! Sleep was just not happening by that point, so at night I would get up and waddle around (and eat! I was starving ALL the time!) until I was tired enough to lie back down.

When we checked in with our OB on Friday (39 weeks 1 day) I was 3 cm dilated, well effaced but still no contractions! This was incredible for me as during my first child’s birth I had worked for about 10 hours of HARD labor to get to 3 cm. My blood pressure was still creeping up so it was time to make some choices. My OB explained that my body and the babies were all giving thumbs up signals for birth. He felt that for safety’s sake we would need to induce labor Saturday afternoon if things hadn’t started up on their own by then. I remember him saying that “It seems like those babies are listening to you so tell them it’s go time!”  He also offered me the option of a stretch and sweep in addition to the homeopathics we were already working with to give the babes one more nudge towards the exit. I accepted the stretch and sweep and while not exactly comfortable, it did let me practice breathing to stay relaxed.

We left the office around 2 p.m. and went straight home. I grabbed my iPod and climbed straight into a hammock. I know, I know… an almost-40-weeks-pregnant-with-twins mama does not just nimbly hop into hammock: it was a bit of a struggle, but so worth it! Through the whole pregnancy, hammock time had helped take pressure off my back and really relaxed me. After about half an hour of rocking and some gentle Braxton Hicks, I noticed that the contractions were getting more intense, becoming a tightening all across my lower belly. They also started to get closer together. I didn’t want to sound a premature alarm and I was really comfortable where I was, so I stayed rocking, listening to music and breathing deeply through each wave of sensation. Time started to warp so I’m not sure exactly how long I stayed like that, but soon the downward pressure in my pelvis was getting intense and I wanted to walk around. I ate a huge bowl of pineapple and told Julio that I thought things were happening but it would be a while. He left me on the patio dancing with my belly with instructions to call him the next time I felt a wave.

About 30 seconds later, I was yelling for him and he came rushing out with the phone ready to call the midwife! I told him I thought it would be a long while yet but to call her to let her know what was going on. I got on the phone with her and she asked to hear me breathe through a wave. I breathed, she listened, and promptly told us to meet her at the birthing center with no waiting around! I spent a few more waves outside watching the sunset (It was about 5:30 p.m. by now), sent a few messages to let our closest friends know what happening, then we kissed my mum and our son and were on our way to the center. It was about an 8-minute drive and I remember a song on the radio with the words “just breathe”. I breathed through the waves rolling through me and still didn’t believe we would be holding babes any time soon.

We arrived at the center just ahead of our OB, and got settled in as he gave me a check. The babies were doing great and I was 6cm dilated! I was SO delighted and amazed, and felt a new surge of excitement and energy lift me up. Our doc left to give us privacy and I walked around the room and danced and rocked to our birthing playlist, joking around with my partner. I set up a mini version of my home altar, and lit some birthday candles for the babies. About an hour later our midwife (who had been stuck in traffic) made it and could take over checks. She had brought her birthing stool with her and we got it ready in case that felt right for me when the time came. I was getting very pacey and she suggested some time in the shower. I took off my dress and getting under that hot water felt absolutely divine. I turned my face into a corner, pressed my forehead against the tile and got deep into my birthing rhythm. I rocked my hips, tapped one hand against the wall and vocalized with mmmm and ahhhhh. I can’t say why that felt right but it just did and I really got into the pleasure of this experience, the sensuality and the intimacy of birth. I felt tightening and loosening of my muscles and just tried to keep my mouth soft as I visualized baby A getting lower and lower.

When I felt ready for a change in location I climbed onto the bed and tried a few different positions. What felt right was reclining propped with pillows behind my back, knees bent and soles of feet touching with very open hips, arms at my sides with palms up. I could feel myself starting to resist and tighten as the waves went deeper and deeper and tried to let go, keeping my hands and mouth soft and open as sounds of aahhhhmmmm came through me. I remember dim soft lights, the candles glowing, my music playing. I remember my partner, my OB and my midwife in the room chatting quietly or just sitting respectfully. I remember getting a very strong image in my mind of each and every person in my circle of love holding hands and surrounding me and the babies, each sending me energy and taking a bit of my discomfort for me. I found out later that groups of my loved ones in several different parts of the world were in fact meditating for us at exactly this moment (goosebumps!); I was flooded with such a sense of safety and well-being, seeing all of those loving faces around me. I felt nauseous at one point but didn’t actually vomit (in hindsight, this was transition!). Soon after this I gave permission to be checked, and I was 9 cms at around 9 p.m.

I got up and held Julio’s shoulders as we danced away that last centimeter, and our midwife and OB made final preparations. Some fear was sliding around the edges of my consciousness now as it really hit me that TWO PEOPLE were about to come out of me and I wanted so badly for them to be safe. His confidence in me and the strength of our connection were what grounded me in that moment and sent me forward. As we danced I felt the rhythmic squeezing of my uterus move lower and lower and the waves were right on top of each other. I felt that my body was starting to push on its own and my partner helped me onto the birthing stool. As soon as I sat all the way down, one of the water bags broke and I felt such intense pressure in my vagina, I instantly bore down and pushed with all my might.

Until this point my vocalizations had been soft and low, and my energy had been calm, light and peaceful. The sounds that came out of my mouth now surprised everyone in the room, myself included. It was as if all the despair, the sorrow, the rage and the joy of the last two years came ripping up my throat and out of my mouth. I roared. I howled. It was a wild, raw, almost feral sound. I was so deep inside myself, reaching for the most profound strength I possessed. With my first push, my son’s head crowned. Two pushes later and he was born. I was panting and gasping and kept saying, “He’s here he’s here he’s here!!” My midwife had caught him and as she held him up he immediately opened his huge dark eyes and started looking around, taking it all in.  She handed him up to me and I held him to my heart for a moment before another massive contraction ripped through me, and I passed him to my partner. I could feel baby number 2 moving down very quickly and I remember locking eyes with my midwife and saying, “I can’t do this again!!” She stroked my leg and reassured me, and I remember glancing up at my partner holding our new son, and thinking “Okay, let’s do this. I want those babies in my arms!!”

I closed my eyes and found a reserve of energy and power that I hadn’t realized was in me and pushed my daughter out into the world, just 7 minutes after her brother. Knowing them now, their attitudes at birth fit so perfectly. My son is extremely active, inquisitive and in constant motion. Of course he was born eyes open, ready for adventure! My daughter is a very mellow, easygoing yet cautious person, and she does things when she’s good and ready, including landing earth-side. She was quite blue in her first moments and did not immediately breathe. After a few seconds of rubbing, our midwife leaned in to give a breath into her mouth. Just as panic began to rise in me, my little girl took a huge breath, turned pink and started squaking as she moved her limbs and took in the scene around her. They handed her to me, and I stared down at her, the reality sinking in that we had done it!! The three of us who had shared a body for 9 months had come safely apart. They were here.

I lost a lot of blood during the birth, and needed to get into a prone position to deliver the placentas. My partner and midwife took the babies to be weighed and measured as our OB helped me to birth both placentas, which were intact and, interestingly, fused together by their outer membranes. As exhausted as I was I remember noticing how fantastic those organs were, they really are beautiful. The babies came back just a few minutes later and my partner incredulously told me how much they weighed: our son 7 lbs 4 oz and our daughter 8 lbs 6 oz! Our midwife helped me to get both babies latched on, and they started nursing like old pros. With both babies finally in my arms I kept looking back and forth between them, so overwhelmed with love. Tears streamed down my face, completely overcome with gratitude. The names that we had ready fit them perfectly: Tobias (gift from god) and Elena (light bringer). They were born at 9:28 and 9:35 pm on December 4th, 2015.

We spent the night at the clinic, without much sleep. I couldn’t stop looking at my babies and marveling at their beauty and their perfection. I counted their fingers and toes over and over again. We had breakfast together and a checkup with our OB in the morning. All was well and we left the clinic with many hugs and well wishes from the staff, so looking forward to introducing our babes to their big brother, their Nana and their whole new tribe of loved ones.

Soon we will light those birthday candles again and celebrate the first year of life of these two incredible little people. The experience of carrying and birthing these children has irreversibly changed me. I am more resilient that I ever imagined, more powerful than my mind can understand. I am reminded daily to trust my journey, to let go of my expectations of how things should be, and to simply ride the waves of energy that move through us and around us, always. I am so very honored to be their mother.

A Birth Story, with photos

A Birth Story, with photos

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This was my second baby and I knew exactly how I wanted to experience his birth. He was born at 36 weeks, when my water broke unexpectedly. He came out quickly and with little effort on my part. He was completely perfect and healthy. His big brother was there for the whole thing and I am so glad I was able to experience this with my husband and son at my side.birthstory2birthstory3birthstory4

Unassisted Home Birth

Unassisted Home Birth

I had a very eventful, and luckily smooth, second birth and thought I could share a little picture of it. I’ve never felt as empowered as I did in this moment. My second little love decided to come a week early and fast! We had decided to do a home birth, since our previous hospital experience with our first son was not so hot.

This was my ocean baby – always doing yoga in my belly, never pushy. The three hour precipitous labor a week early came as quite a surprise, given his personality. My midwife missed the show and my husband almost did, too! My toddler was my doula, holding my head at the end of my contractions, telling me I’m ok until I moved to the bathroom on instinct and started pushing.

Daddy caught my sweets, unwrapped a bit of cord around his neck, and handed him over to me as I moved from all fours to grasp him. I felt like a 6lb 8oz freight train had just run through my body! The midwife couldn’t believe her ears when my husband told her the baby was born and healthy. I pushed out the placenta, and Daddy cut and clamped the cord with our kitchen scissors and home birth kit materials. Amazing!

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Sweet Baby Jane: A Birth Story

Sweet Baby Jane: A Birth Story

Sweet baby Jane, this is how you came to be.

Long before you were here, you were loved and wanted, not only by Mommy and Daddy, but by everyone in the family.

I still remember when we found out I was pregnant – you were only the size of a poppy seed at the time, a tiny but very precious poppy seed.

It felt like the weeks were going by so slowly. You then were the size of a blueberry, and eventually of a lemon. Every week when we did groceries, I would find the fruit or vegetable you compared to in size and hold it so dearly in my hands. I’d say, “Look Hans, that’s how big baby is this week!”

Little by little you grew and so did my belly. We eventually found out we were expecting a sweet baby girl, but that’s nothing Mommy and Daddy didn’t know already.

It was around 30 weeks of pregnancy that everything changed. We had our first meeting with Catherine, our Doula. She told us about the birthing center in Blainville. Mommy had no idea we even had those around here, but I knew I had to call first thing in the morning. Even though I knew my chances of getting in were slim to none, Mommy never lost hope. I prayed and prayed, because I knew if they could find room for us, then I’d have a shot at the birth story I had been hoping for. You can imagine my disappointment when they called me back and told me they were fully booked. I wasn’t surprised, to say the least, but extremely disappointed.

A few days later, my phone rang. I checked the caller ID and immediately got excited when I saw it was the birthing center. Why would they be calling me? They must’ve found a way to squeeze me in! I answered the phone and tried to contain my excitement, but I don’t think I fooled anyone. I had to go meet my midwife ASAP, because I was only two days shy from being too far along for a “suivi sage-femme.”

The next day, I went to meet Ariane. I was completely blown away; she was warm, welcoming and extremely helpful. Within an hour of meeting with her, I felt like more of my questions had been answered than during my entire pregnancy up until then.

It was just around that time when your name finally came to Mommy: Jane. Daddy loved it right away. It was a name for a strong, elegant, smart, and independent little girl. It suited your energy that Mommy was feeling so strongly. That’s when we knew your name had finally been whispered to us.

The weeks went by and my belly grew some more, and then some more. Your due date was getting closer and closer, and I was really looking forward to holding you in my arms. I was nervous and excited at the idea of giving birth, but I knew it would all be worth it.

37 weeks arrived and I was really excited. This was a huge milestone for us, because it meant you were officially full term and Mommy had done her job of keeping you safe. We were officially ready for you!

Around 38 weeks I became very determined. I went for walks every night, ate a bunch of dates, had plenty of raspberry leaf tea, and even got a bouncy ball. I didn’t want to wait any longer! I was in baby mode.

I will always remember that very first contraction. It was Saturday, October 24th at 1 o’clock in the morning. Though it was a little painful, I got so excited! I had been told to not start counting the contractions until they felt regular, because you were my first baby and sometimes it can take days. I went back to bed, but couldn’t sleep. The contractions seemed to come often, but I was never really a good judge of time anyway.

At 2 o’clock, I knew it was time I woke up Daddy. “Hans, it’s happening! It’s time.” We both smiled out of excitement, even though I have to admit, I was a little bit nervous. Daddy jumped out of bed and started getting things ready. He started counting my contractions and we soon realized they were only a few minutes apart. I was confused, it’s wasn’t supposed to happen this fast…I was secretly hoping we were further along than expected, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up, because after all, it’s not supposed to happen so quickly with your first baby.

It didn’t take long before we decided it was time to call Ariane. Although the timing of my contractions was good, they needed to be a little more intense. In the following hour, my contractions did exactly that. I knew at that point, there was no slowing down.

We called Ariane back and she could immediately hear it in my voice. This mama was in labor and you, my baby Jane, were officially on your way.

I took a minute to talk to you. “We’ve got this, baby Jane. We’re going to do great.” I prayed and visualized a quick and easy birth. I visualized the moment I’d finally hold you in my arms after 9 months of waiting.

After what felt like the longest car ride of my life, we finally arrived at the birthing center. Immediately the contractions grew even stronger. Ariane confirmed what I had been hoping for – we had already done a huge amount of work. I was so happy and excited. I even think Daddy and I took a moment to high-five each other. I knew he was proud of us already.

Daddy was such a good help. Thanks to the birthing classes we did at home, he knew exactly what to do to help Mommy. He quickly set up the speakers we brought and played the playlist I carefully made to welcome you into the world. The lights were dimmed, soft music was playing, and a gentle smell of lavender filled the air. It felt like time had stopped. It was beautiful and surreal.

And then time went by really fast. It was contraction after contraction, and I wasn’t getting any breaks. I think that’s the part moms forget, because that’s when things get very intense. To tell you the truth, I don’t remember much either.

Soon enough my instincts kicked in and I felt the need to push. I immediately felt empowered. In that moment, I was stronger than I had ever been in my life. I felt like a woman, a strong and powerful woman capable of anything. I was determined. “We’ve got this, baby Jane, we’re doing great!” The sound of your heartbeat was steady and strong. I felt so proud of my baby girl. She too, was a strong and powerful little lady.

Not long after, my water finally ruptured. It did quite the mini explosion and even splashed in Kim’s face. Even though things were intense, we all laughed.

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It felt like it took forever, but it was only 18 minutes later when you were placed in our arms. “My baby, my baby!” I kept saying. “We did it, it’s over. We did it!” I thanked God, and had never felt more blessed in my life as I held you in my arms. You were so small. We admired your features, your brown hair, your little fingernails, especially the pinky, and listened to all your little baby sounds. We were absolutely in love. You were a beautiful and healthy baby girl born at 7:16 AM, weighing 7lb, 9oz and measuring 19 inches long.

As I recall the moments leading up to your birth you’re currently sleeping on me. You’re exactly six weeks old today and thriving. I am so thankful every day that you are in our lives. It is such an honor to be your mom. There’s no love in the world that compares to the love I have for you. This kind of love is indescribable, unconditional. . .it’s so pure and beautiful, yet so simple.

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Dear Raegan, A Birth Story Letter

Dear Raegan, A Birth Story Letter

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Dear Raegan,

You are beautiful, and I love you to the ends of the earth. I had so much fear upon learning we were pregnant again. Between finances, balancing life, and figuring out how I was bringing you into the world, I was nervous. You were not planned, but you were loved from the minute we found out you existed.

My pregnancy with you was very uncomfortable. Although I was not as sick, I was so tired, and so sore. Chasing after your sisters and learning a new level of heat in Okinawa was brutal. I was exhausted. You were pretty busy yourself! You wiggled and squirmed all day, every day; you even had the ultrasound technicians laughing as you bounced around my uterus. I can only imagine what’s to come from you in the future.

My sweet girl, there was so much I had to come to terms with while I carried you. After I gave birth to Harleigh I swore I’d never give birth in a hospital again, and well, living here, I had no choice. I searched in every crack and crevice I could to find a midwife who could help me. I even looked into a few traveling midwives. I wanted to have you at home.

I was entering my third trimester and decided to stop stressing and start preparing my mind for a hospital birth. I wrote up an extravagant birth plan to ensure I could bring you earth-side as easy and as peacefully as I could. It was against most of the hospitals policies and required my various signatures, but I knew what was best for us, for you.

It was 3:30 AM when I woke up to a strong contraction after almost two weeks of irregular contractions that had lasted hours at a time. I was about to roll over, when I heard Harleigh crying. I went to check on her to find she had awoken and slipped her leg through her crib rail. She was stuck. I thought, what are the odds I am in labor and Harleigh knows? I got her unstuck, calmed her down, and went back to bed. As I lay down, I had another contraction. I shook it off again; then, the next one came. I began timing them to find they were ten minutes apart and strong! I tried to go to sleep again, thinking by the time I woke up they’d be closer together if they were real. I knew I needed as much sleep as I could get. So, off I went, drifting to sleep, holding my big, old belly in my arms. As soon as I began to dream, you punched me so hard. I got the message loud and clear: today was the day I was going to meet you!

I was so fearful that your punch broke my bag of waters. I laid there just waiting for the fluids to soak the space around me. A few more contractions passed, then I nervously got up. When I stood, no water came out, but the rest of my mucous plug presented itself. I knew it was the end because it was quite a bit. After using the bathroom, I decided to stay in our quiet room and time our contractions.

Ten minutes…six minutes…four minutes…they just kept decreasing intervals and fast. I sat, I stood, I breathed. I got excited, cleared my mind, and prepared for my day with you. I went to tell Grandma that I thought today was it! I told her before Daddy, because I knew she would take longer to get ready. I notified our birth team and told them to expect a call soon to come in! Then I jumped in the shower.

As the water flowed down my back, I held you inside me in my arms, and imagined what was to come. I thought about my fear of the hospital, the unknown, a plan, and your name. Yep, that’s right, we still weren’t positive we had a name for you! I got out of the shower, woke your dad, and started getting your sisters ready. I told everyone, despite my original birth plan to labor at home as long as possible, I wanted to go in after we got some breakfast. I was so scared with how fast they were moving that my water would break, and that if it did I wouldn’t know what to expect from myself as far as a timeline. The hospital is usually only 20 to 30 minutes away, but it could be up to an hour or hour and a half, depending on traffic and gate delays or closures. I also figured the sooner I got into the hospital scene, the longer I had to get comfortable being there.

After casually packing all the bags, getting ready, and packing the car, we were out the door about 7:30 AM. We were on our way to Dunkin Donuts when I asked my mom to stop at Harleigh’s swim lessons so I could pay the bill. Your dad thought I was nuts, as my contractions were enough to make me stop and sway at that point, but I’m your crazy mother! Of course it was necessary! Eventually, we got to Dunkin Donuts and I stayed in the car with your sisters while Grandma and Daddy went to get all of our food and Munchkins for the nurses. Sarah, our doula, texted me to let me know she was on her way to the hospital and my photographer was on her way in, too, for another mom who was just admitted. I was so nervous our photographer Kristi would miss the birth due to the other momma!

We got to naval at 9:05. We decided to leave everything in the car until I was admitted. We had plans to hang out in the hospitals lobby until I was ready to go to triage. We all sat around eating breakfast and talking while I rode out my contractions, just waiting for them to get stronger, more consistent, and closer together, but unfortunately, they began to disappear. Your sisters were playing with the peanut ball, running around, and being silly. We all were simply just waiting for things to pick back up.

Grandma began notifying the family that you were making your grand entrance soon, because everyone on the east coast back home was about to go to sleep. Your great Uncle Joe, my godfather, and Aunt Christine video chatted with us to wish us luck, and remind us how crazy we were for hanging out in the lobby. Everyone was so excited, but not possibly more excited than me.

After two hours of wonky and weak contractions, I feared today was not the day. I was so worried this would turn into a false alarm, but I was confused because my contractions with you were so incredibly strong. My doula suggested I get away from the hospital, that maybe it was in my head.

We all took a break and I sent Sarah home. The rest of us went to Macaroni Grill for lunch. We had to run back home anyway, because we forgot some things at the house!

Sure enough, my contractions picked right back up the second I stepped out of the hospitals doors. My confidence that you were on your way was back, and I decided to stay away from the hospital for quite a while! The contractions I had in the car were the worst, and just my luck they always occurred when we got up to every gate guard of each gate we went through. However, no one seemed to notice.

We got to Macaroni Grill around noon, and I ordered Chicken Alfredo. It was so good, but it took forever to eat because I had to stop for contractions. They were back and six minutes apart, and strong enough that I needed to relax my jaw and breathe. At one point, I got up to use the bathroom and they came on so strong on the toilet that I began to vocalize and prayed no one would walk in! I can’t imagine what a stranger would say or think!

I was in such awe that our waitress didn’t even bat an eye or seem to notice I was in labor. She had great timing around our waves.

We finished up and headed to Fosters BX. Originally, I planned for everyone to get out and come in so I could walk around, but then I decided against it at the last minute. Just me and your dad went in.

Walking into the BX a man stopped me and said, “You look like you’re in a lot of pain.” I laughed. He proceeded to say, “Not too much longer.”

I said, “I’m in labor, the hospitals the next stop!”

He looked like he just saw a ghost and said, “Oh really? Well, good luck!” I stopped to have a contraction and held onto your dad’s arms. After it was done, he left to go to a different store in the center while I went to find ice packs for the cooler that would house our placenta until we could get it home to our freezer. I had three contractions in that aisle waiting for your dad to come back. I was getting nervous, because he was taking so long! Finally, he returned and we checked out and headed to the hospital.

We arrived back at the hospital around 2:30. Again, we left all of our things in the car, but this time I went up to the mother infant care center to get admitted. I figured if I got a room, I could get comfortable with my surroundings and maybe set up the pack and play for Harleigh so she could nap.

I told Sarah I was going to try to get a room and I’d call her when we were ready for her to come back. I got up to triage and they did a 20 minute strip to monitor your heart-rate and our contractions. I was excited because they were finally consistent in the hospital at five minutes apart! I knew we were ready to be admitted. The nurse asked if she could check me and I declined. She tried to persuade me and I caved because if I didn’t get admitted right now, I’d have to sit through another strip when I came back to try to be admitted again. However, there was a catch. I did not wish to know my progress. Daddy and Grandma were told and Daddy told Sarah, who then told me she was on her way in. I figured I was 4cm or 5cm dilated, gauging from the pain I was experiencing. I knew they admitted women at a 4cm, so when my nurse came in and didn’t admit me, I was scared. I thought I was having strong contractions at a 2cm or a 3cm, because they decided not to give me a room. I also heard Daddy talking to Grandma outside triage. “Well, it was a water birth. It’s going to be different,” Grandma said. I was so nervous, I may not have been handling my contractions well!

The nurse told us to walk around for two hours and come back. She went on to tell me this was best for me, because my plan was to have such a hands-off birth that if she admitted me now, they’d want eyes on me and that’d be more of a chance for the providers to want to intervene. So, off I went.

I sat on my birth ball in the lobby of the MICC until Sarah arrived. When she got there, I took her to come walk with me. I knew I needed to get “away” and regain focus on my labor, to zero in on you and my body. I opened up to her about a previous sexual assault, as the cervical check had triggered my memory. I was fearful it would set me back. Opening up to her allowed me to let that go, and made me feel safe again.

We walked and walked and walked, stopping every five minutes for contractions where I held onto the handrail and she placed her hand on my lower back with hardly any pressure at all. For some reason that made a world of difference. After an hour and a half, I went to empty my bladder and have toilet contractions, because they’re so effective. I rode out the last 20 minutes of our walk there. In-between them, I talked with Sarah. I asked her what my cervical check revealed, even though I told her not to tell me earlier. She was reluctant to say, but I told her that I really meant it. I wanted to know, because I knew I had made progress by now, as I could feel transition was near. I was confident and comfortable with where I stood in that moment. “5cm,” she said. I was so happy to hear it. I told her that is exactly where I thought I was, but explained why I became nervous. Now, I was very confident in knowing exactly where I was at, just like with Harleigh’s birth.

I also began to become deep and filled with those loving and warm feelings that come with natural labor. I told her how I wished women would hang on to this feeling, the feeling in-between waves: the ecstasy that is in those moments, and knowing that they’re that much closer to meeting their babies. If women held onto those feelings and looked forward to those moments of such relief, they would see that they could do it and they wouldn’t be so afraid. I could not wait to see you, my dear, and I knew every amount of pain I was going through was worth the ride.

We walked back to the MICC, because I knew transition was rearing its ugly head. I told the triage nurse I was ready to get a room. He told me to go into triage and wait to be checked. I was immediately angered. I was not going to be checked again. The nurse I had two hours ago was gone.

A new nurse came in and told me, “Ok, we’re going to go ahead and get a check.” As she was reaching for gloves, I declined, and she left to speak with my provider. A new nurse came in and said she was going to check me. Now, I was even more upset, because it was over 20 minutes since the first nurse left. Things were moving quickly, and they obviously weren’t communicating.

I said, “No. I just told the last nurse that wasn’t happening and the nurse on earlier told me that I didn’t need one. I was checked two hours ago and I was 5cm with consistent contractions on my strip. I know I was able to be admitted then, so just get me a room.” Your nice mommy was turning into Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Now, this nurse told me she was leaving to speak to my provider.

Another 30 minutes went by. I was telling your dad, “I need to get in the shower. They need to get me a room.” “They’re so strong.” “I’m so close Travis.” “Please get me a room.”

Daddy asked Sarah to get them to move things along because the contractions were on top of each other. I couldn’t stand any longer and got up on the gurney on my hands and knees in downward dog.

Ten more minutes and I asked for my birth ball to lean over.

Two minutes and our provider finally came in and told me I needed to be checked. She said they could not admit me without one. I explained I had one, and she said she needs to make sure I’m making progress. I promised her I was, and then, I had the worst contraction of all of my labor with you. While I was slowly riding to the peak of that wave I thought, Oh my god I need an epidural. Fuck it. And then, POP! Water flooded my sweatpants. I shouted, “Oh fuck, my water just broke, oh my god, oh my god!” “Its ok Megan, calm down. This is a good thing,” Sarah reassured me. I was freaking out, and heard Dr. Lee in the background asking if it was a trickle or a gush. I broke down, and began to cry and beg for a room. Dr. Lee was still pushing for a check to make sure it was my bag of waters. I couldn’t believe in one of the most vulnerable moments of my life a doctor was still pressuring me to do something I did not want done. I calmed down and I told them I was wearing a pad, to just take it and test it, but that I needed to get into a room, now. Not even two contractions later, and I felt the pushy sensations that are about to prepare me for your descent into the world. I tried to breathe through them and control my body.

“I’m feeling pushy. I need a room, get me a room.” Sarah relayed the information and apparently that set a complete panic amongst the nurses. A cart was rushed to triage and waiting for me to deliver you right then and there.

“Megan, there’s a shift change.”

“Are you fucking kidding me? I need to get in the shower. Where’s Kristi? Sarah, go find Kristi (photographer)!”

Soon enough, a nurse came in named Katie and saved my life. She got everyone out of my triage area, and told me they were getting me a room. It was now 7 PM.

By the grace of god, I was able to get up and walk to the room. As I walked down the hallway, my photographer and another doula came out of the room in front of me. I locked eyes with Amanda (the other doula) and we just had this mutual understanding of where I was at in my labor. It meant so much that someone who wasn’t even fully aware of all that was going on could see and understand exactly where I was at.

Oh no, I felt a contraction coming on. I paused and looked at the blurry hall of nurses surrounding me. I’m not even sure who said it, but someone told me to turn around and hold onto the cart. Thank god for them! I held on to the cart that was sent to triage to assist in delivering you. Pushing through the contraction, I prayed I didn’t feel your head pop in my soaking wet sweatpants.

Phew! We made it. I swiftly moved into the room, and Dr. Lee was running down all the protocol things she needed to tell me. Then told me I needed a hep lock. It was at that moment that I lost my marbles completely with her. I told her I wasn’t allowing a hep lock, I was pushing already! What’s the point now? She was asking me if I had allergies, my birthday, my blood type, everything they should’ve asked me in triage, instead of pressuring me for a check, and I just wanted her to shut up.

We were in the room and I was so “out of body” I couldn’t figure out where the bathroom was immediately. I did a circle, spotted the door, walked up to it, and while she was still speaking said, “I’m going in the shower. See ya!”

Daddy, Sarah, Kristi, and Katie followed me in and Dr. Lee watched from the doorway. Dad got the water on and it was an immediate change. I was relaxed, happy, and ready to bring you into the world. Then, Dr. Lee said, “Tell us when you have to push, so we can move you to the bed.”

I laughed and said, “That’s what you think,” and then I shouted back, “Hernandez (another provider) told me I could deliver in the shower dependent upon the provider.”

Katie said, “I can tell you right now, this provider isn’t comfortable with that.”

I looked Dr. Lee right in the eyes and told her, “This isn’t her birth, so I don’t really care what she’s comfortable with.”

The mood shifted, again. Everyone knew I was not backing down from getting the birth I desired. Dr. Lee left and asked to be notified when I was pushing. “At least tell me when you’re pushing, so I can get my gloves on.” Katie said.

She laughed, but was unsure what to say, because I was pushing already. I got inside my head and thought about my cervix. I knew if I wasn’t 10cm that pushing would be really bad and I could hurt myself. I told Katie, “You can check me now if you want, but it needs to be right now, and fast”. I was in-between contractions. While she was in the process, I felt another one surface and exclaimed, “What am I? Get out!” “You’re complete.” My lioness roar began, “UHGHHH I’M PUSHINGGG… No, I’m not. I am not pushing. You did not hear that.” The room was in hysterics.

“We got you Megan, we didn’t hear a thing.”

I could feel you moving while you were crowning. It was the weirdest sensation I’ve ever felt. I even said, “Stop moving in my vagina. It’s weird.” That made everyone chuckle, too. I could feel your head about to deliver and then you slide back up. “Wait, where is she going?” I asked. The disappointment in my voice sparked my doula to reassure me it was fine, and normal.

Pushing felt so good. I couldn’t feel my contractions anymore and the relief of pressure while I pushed was unexplainable. I held my bottom to support your descent, hoping I wouldn’t tear. I could feel your beautiful head bulging. It was surreal. I tried my best to breathe you down. I would say it was successful, but I did let out a breathy, slight scream when your head entered the world.

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Once your head was out, I began pushing with all my might to deliver your body. Swoosh! At 7:28 PM, on August 5th, 2015, fluids poured from me and your cry filled the room. Katie handed you to me between my legs. I grabbed you and placed you on my chest. I sat there, admiring your squished up face, your beautiful features, in awe of you. My beautiful girl, you were here, and you were perfect. I sat on the bench in the shower for my first five minutes with you, then, we were moved to the bed to initiate breastfeeding, cut your cord, and to deliver the placenta. Your latch was terrible, but I wasn’t worried. They massaged my uterus, and tugged on the cord even though I asked them not to, but the placenta was taking its sweet time. Forty-five some minutes later, it finally arrived. I gave you to Daddy and they took your measurements: 8lbs 10oz, 20.5 inches long.

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Soon after, I hopped in the shower, where I laughed at the day. I gleamed from our birth and I cried, because you were no longer occupying that space inside of me. This was the beginning of your life and your adventure. I can’t wait to watch you grow.

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After the shower, we brought Grandma in so you could meet her, and your sisters. They were so excited to see you. You are so loved; don’t you ever forget that, my girl.

About an hour later I signed AMA after AMA, and my consent form for your delivery. Ironic right, being that it was over and done!

Collage4Your birth was chaotic, but beautiful. I would do it again tomorrow if I could. I brought you earth-side the best way I knew how, and my goodness, do we have a great story. I love you Raegan, and I always will.

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All photos were taken by Kristi James Photography.

Peregrine’s Birth Story: From Home to Hospital

Peregrine’s Birth Story: From Home to Hospital

An eternal 12 days after my due date, which contained both moments of patience and absolute cry-my-face-off, hormonal battiness, a complete lunar eclipse, two stretch-and-sweeps, two ultrasounds, and the looming likeliness of medical induction, it was finally starting to look like I was in labour. I had been having short, manageable contractions about 15 to 20 minutes apart for the last couple days, which would fizzle out during the night. This Tuesday evening, they started picking up enough that I would hum or moan through them and have to concentrate. A number of times I got Ben to squeeze my hips throughout a contraction, which felt much better. We had been infested with house-flies recently, and at one point he started squeezing my hips, but saw a fly, and let go of me to go after it with the swatter. I made an indignant noise and waved my hand frantically – how the heck did a fly take priority right now!?

Somewhere around 7 PM, I called my midwife, Kilmeny, to tell her contractions were a minute long and roughly five minutes apart. While we were talking on the phone she heard me have to stop and moan through a contraction, so she could tell that it wasn’t just wishful thinking. She said she would have some supper and then be on her way over, which was about an hour’s drive. Ben already had the inflatable birthing pool partially full and covered to retain warmth, but he began to add more hot water. I had a set of watercolour birthing affirmations that I had painted hanging on the wall near the pool, and Ben lit candles.

It may have been around 8:45 when Kilmeny arrived and checked me. My cervix was only 2 to 3 cm dilated. I was pretty discouraged and felt bad for calling her, but was still having the regular contractions, though not quite as close together. She was quite tired from being at another birth and, saying it could be quite a while yet, suggested sleep. We gave her our bed and we set up on the futon in the living room. I didn’t want to lie down during contractions, but she said maybe that would be good for me, as the discomfort could be an indicator of something happening, whereas always shifting into a more comfortable position might be slowing things down. I called Mom, who brought over some more gravol, and I took some with Tylenol and we went to bed. I lasted maybe an hour and a half trying to doze in-between contractions, with Ben asleep beside me. Then I couldn’t take it anymore and wandered about or sat in the rocker with my heat-pack and tens machine. Soft instrumental lullabies played at a low volume. I was making some noise, but trying to keep it minimal. It felt very lonely in the dark, coping with each wave and being the only one awake, tiptoeing around and feeling guilty for not lying down, as was suggested. I could have woken Ben, but there wasn’t anything he could do, so I thought he might as well sleep while he could.

4 AM – I finally woke Ben and Kilmeny, as my contractions seemed stronger and I was getting very shaky. I held tight to Ben and whispered that I didn’t want to be alone anymore. They topped off the pool with hot water and I got in, which felt really lovely. Kilmeny wanted me to sink all the way into it and try to relax my body as much as possible.  They sat nearby with laptops and drank coffee.

6 AM – Dawn was approaching; the midwife offered to break my waters in half an hour if there wasn’t much more progress. I said we might as well do it right away. I asked Ben to say a little prayer, so he held my hands and prayed that it would go well, and then they helped me onto the couch. The waters felt very warm as they trickled out, and Kilmeny said they were clear with no meconium, which I was so glad of.

Contractions picked up quite quickly, and before I could even get back into the pool I said, “I’m going to throw up.” Ben grabbed a bowl for me. I lost the mint I’d been sucking.

Sometime between 8 and 10 AM, the midwives did a changing of the guard. Kilmeny left me with words of encouragement, replaced by Suki and Julie. By this point I was at 8cm and kind of out of it, in my own survival zone. Ben showed our contraction-timing app to Julie who tried it out. I vaguely recall being brought cool cloths for my neck when I found the pool too hot, but the contrast was quite chilly when I got out to pee. At one point I reached to see if I could check my own cervix and felt the top of the baby’s head against my fingers. That was very neat, realizing that it was actually right there and I had touched my child.

Labour continued in the pool until noon; there was immense pressure with each contraction. I would just grab hold of the handles and writhe in the water. The only thing that sort of helped was pressing my lower back against the little blow up seat under the water while bracing my feet against the opposite wall. It was more painful than I had expected, especially because there wasn’t much relief between waves. I didn’t realize it was back labour.

I didn’t have a lot of excitement about the baby throughout that time. It seemed so impossible that it was ever going to arrive. I just focused on making it through each new moment and using what remained of my energy to make the singing, moaning noises that were essential to keeping myself calm. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to try to keep my voice in a low register and my jaw loose, otherwise I would end up screaming and tensing up. So, that was my song – my low, vowel-y litany of labour. “Aaaaa-eeeee-iiiii-ohhh-oooo.”

Ben was funny, as well as supportive. He couldn’t help laughing a little when I would vocalize, “Hoo hooo.” “And the owl goes?” he joked under his breath.

I wanted to be pushing so badly, wanting to be done this long stage. I tried it a bit, but my body wasn’t feeling the urge. I remember Suki asking, “Are you feeling pushy?” I complained, “I want to be feeling pushy!” She laughed. She checked and said I was at 9.5 cm, but there was a thick edge of cervical lip in the way. She offered to try to hold it back for me during a contraction. We tried and it hurt a lot but she said she had cleared it about halfway back. I tried laboring a little longer and asked if she would do it again. She said it was very unusual for someone to ask for that again! I just so badly wanted to get through, I didn’t care much about the pain. I think I started throwing up again.

Finally, I felt able to push a little with the contractions. It wasn’t getting the baby out though, so they moved me to the bed and tried various positions. Suki continued to push back the lip with every opportunity. Whenever I was pushing it was bearable, but if she was still working on it after I had finished pushing I would practically scream at her not to. At last she said it was all cleared away. I was relieved, thinking we must be almost done and the baby could be born at any point now. However, I continued pushing, back and forth between the toilet and bed, not seeming to be able to finish the job. I would try and try, and they kept saying that it was a great push and just go a little harder to make the baby come far enough to stop going back, but then I would lose my breath and have to stop.

Suki told me that, because I was so exhausted and didn’t seem to have the final burst of energy needed for strong enough pushes, that I could try for ten more minutes, but then she would like to transfer me to the hospital and use Pitocin to strengthen the contractions. I said I didn’t want to. I wanted to avoid Pitocin if at all possible. I kept trying my best, and she held off on that ultimatum, telling me that I was just so close, I was almost doing it.

At last though, I was so pooped, that I agreed to go to the hospital for a vacuum suction removal. It felt a little bit like a gracious defeat, handing over my own fortitude for being able to do it at home, but I was also thankful to know that I would have help. It wasn’t all on my shoulders anymore. I was headed towards the end; it was just a matter of waiting it out now.

“It’s so hard, my love,” I whispered. In true Ben form, my hubby responded with an innuendo, which not even the pain could keep me from finding funny. “It’s good to see you smile”, he said.

The ambulance arrived with a couple of friendly paramedics. I remember thinking how awesome it was that they wheel a carrier right into the house and that I didn’t have to try to walk out to the vehicle. At first they buckled me in, but I couldn’t bear to be on my back, so I asked to be unbuckled very quickly. As the door was shut and we left, a couple of flies got stuck inside with us and started landing on me. If I could have laughed at that point I would have. It was the last straw – those flies that we had been swatting for weeks.

The hour-long, bumpy ambulance ride was the worst part of, well, anything in my life thus far. Fully dilated and stuck, I sang constantly. It took a lot of energy to force it out, but I couldn’t not do it. I apologized to the lovely paramedic for making so much noise, and she cheerfully replied that it was a nice change for them. They didn’t usually get serenaded on the job. Once I almost asked how much further it was to the hospital, but decided I’d rather not know. I didn’t try pushing at all on the journey, I just endured, trembling and sweaty, while Ben encouraged me through what felt like a haze. I was glad to have him there. At first, they had suggested that he bring our car behind, but I definitely wanted him with me. Julie went home, but Suki followed the ambulance in her car.

When we arrived, things moved speedily. I was whisked upstairs to the maternity wing, into a bed, and people bustled around quickly prepping for the baby and drawing blood samples, as I had weakly asked about an epidural. When they told me it would take at least ten minutes to get the needle in, I said to forget that, let’s just get this finished! Besides, I really did want a natural birth. So, the obstetrician on call, a super lady OB, who we had seen for a consult the week before, came right in and checked the baby. She turned to the midwife and said the little one was, “Sunny side up,” as they say, which was partly why the labour was stalled. She said she would use forceps, but I was against this. She explained that the only way we could still go with the vacuum suction is if I pushed while she turned the baby. That way the top of its head would be accessible. Bracing my feet against the supports, I gave it my best effort, while thinking about saving my baby’s precious skull from the trauma of forceps. It worked, and I could feel the whole body swivel in the birth canal.

They checked again for the heartbeat and said it was beginning to drop. The OB said she didn’t usually do episiotomies, but needed to for this situation. I said, “Oh no, please don’t! I’d much rather tear.” She said ok, we just needed to get the baby out right away. As it turned out, the heartbeat sped up again as she affixed the vacuum cup to the baby’s head. She exclaimed that it must have made the baby excited. Then the doctor pulled while I pushed, and pushed, and pushed. I knew this was my last chance to do this naturally and I had to do it now. I think I just gave up on breathing entirely. My face went purple. Then it happened – the head was out! I gasped and gasped.

Ben disappeared into the bathroom for a moment and I heard someone ask if he was ok. He told me, after, that he knew he was about to faint, being overwhelmed and so out of control of the situation. Someone told him he should sit with his head between his knees, but he already knew about that and was doing it. He came back just a few seconds later though, as the rest of the baby’s body slithered out of me and I felt the incredible sensation of all the pressure being gone.

Then everything immediately melted into an amazing glow of relief and elation and joy and tenderness. The baby was on my empty belly, his back to my face, as the cord was attached. I could tell from the look of the sturdy build that it was going to be Peregrine, even before my husband said, “It’s a boy!” Ben sat silent and teary beside me, as I sobbed happily, “My baby! My baby!” I gathered the warm pink skin into my caressing hands. He was fuzzy and dry, with no vernix, and bawled lustily. Everyone in the room was smiling and laughing with the joy of it…and also because he had pooped all over the doctor’s feet. They were trying to wipe poo off the baby so it wouldn’t get onto me, but I didn’t care.

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Even though our newborn had passed meconium during the ambulance ride, and they had an expert in the room to clear his airways if needed, he seemed to be fine, so they were able to delay cord clamping for five minutes. I had agreed to a shot of Pitocin directly after he was born, as they didn’t want to risk hemorrhaging, so the placenta came out very quickly. I didn’t care what was going on around me anymore, or about what they were doing to fix me up, I was just so ecstatic.

I put my son to my breast almost right away and he latched on like a natural, so easily and quietly that the attendants were surprised when they looked over and saw him nursing.

Then they took him to a table right beside me to briefly suction a little mucous from his throat and weigh him: 9 lbs, ½ oz! What a huge baby, big and healthy. His head circumference was the same as most six week old infants! We named him as we had planned: Peregrine Benedict – “Perrin” for short.

I had a second-degree tear, which needed sewing, but compared to what I had just been through I barely noticed the stitches.

Although Perrin cried at first, he soon became peaceful and alert for our first few hours together. We admired all the features of his precious little face and remarked on how his ears were a perfect combination of ours. His cheeks looked like mine had, as a baby. His feet were big, with long toes like Ben’s. His Daddy held him close for skin-to-skin time and later they gazed wondrously at one another. He also sucked his thumb.

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My mom arrived, immensely reassured to know that I was still alive, after not hearing from us for 15 hours and panicking. Ben had called her as we left for the hospital, asking her to meet us there, so she could bring the car seat and drive us home. She shared delightful moments with her brand new grandchild, as he looked about on the bright world, before she headed into town to pick up food for us all, midwife included, from Tim Hortons.

I was crazy hungry. I devoured two suppers – the hot meal provided by the hospital, and a big take-out sandwich wrap. I was also completely re-energized, chatting and laughing excitedly and walking around the room, relating all the circumstances of the birth. It was as if all the exhaustion and tribulation of my body had just vanished.

Ben texted family members and sent photos of the new arrival. I hadn’t wanted to tell anyone when I went into labour, so the news was a surprise. Mom answered questions for the survey project of a grateful student-nurse, as Ben and I were way too distracted. I also had a hot shower before my wonderful sister-in-law Addie arrived to pick up my placenta for encapsulation.

Perrin’s birth was at 3:09 PM on September 30th. Only three hours later, dressed in a little outfit with a bunting pattern, that I had bought to be his first, we packed up the tiny person into the car-seat where he fell fast asleep. Wearing a blanket as a skirt, since I had forgotten to bring pants, I thanked everyone, especially the midwife Suki, very warmly, and we left to bring our little son back to our home and our new lives as a family of three.

That’s the end of the birth story of Peregrine Benedict and the beginning of the rest of his life.

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P.S. I know many people have had negative birth experiences in hospitals, but I was very blessed to suffer no trauma or disappointment from my transfer. Even though I would have preferred to have a home birth, without interventions, I was consulted about and consented to everything that happened. My desires were respected by everyone who assisted me, and I didn’t feel invaded or pressured. Overall it was a positive experience. I was very grateful for receiving the help that I did.

Rueger’s Birth: Learning to Give Into the Power of a Woman’s Body

Rueger’s Birth: Learning to Give Into the Power of a Woman’s Body

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First of all, I’m writing this on his second birthday. His birth is rather fresh in my memory even though so much time has passed. At about six AM on New Year’s Day, 2014, I started having mild contractions five to ten minutes apart. He was due on December 31, so it was exciting to think this might be the day!

 

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I got up without waking my husband and son, and started milling around doing last minute things and getting ready for the day. I had been having a lot of prodromal labor with this baby for weeks, just like I had with my first. My body likes to practice a lot before it does the real thing. I timed my contractions for an hour or so and they were steady and ‘laborish’ – tightening of my whole abdominal region instead of just a portion, spreading to my lower back, uncomfortable, and consistently stayed at about five to six minutes apart.

I called my midwife and told her everything, as well as my mother, husband, and son, who were now up and about. My labor with my first had only been five hours long, start to finish, but for some reason my spirit had been gearing up to spend more time than that in labor this second go around.

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Turns out I was right. I had already had my midwife Katrina strip my membranes two different times in the last week, because we had time constraints concerning when my husband had to return to work in North Dakota. I desperately wanted him to be there for the birth of his second child, especially since he wasn’t able to be there for the first and missed out on having some immediate kangaroo care. I have no doubt in my mind that the membrane stripping sped up the start of my labor, but only by about 6 hours, and yet made my actual labor longer. My midwife warned us of this possibility and that’s exactly what happened to me.

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The setting was pretty and calm with the Christmas tree still up, lights dim, and birthing pool being filled. I spent the first five to six hours progressing from one centimeter to only about 4 centimeters. I could talk between contractions and joke around a bit. It was so nice to labor at home. But, when Katrina checked me and told me I had only progressed to a four or five, my heart dropped. With Hudson, my first, I had progressed to eight centimeters within four hours, and had him out and in my arms after about three pushes at hour five. So, Katrina did another membrane sweep. This time it hurt and was very uncomfortable. Immediately afterwards, my labor became harder and quite intense. My contractions were now about two to three minutes apart, and I had to breathe and concentrate through them.

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My mom was upstairs with Hudson the whole time, which was nice. My doula, Tessa, Katrina, and my husband, Beau, were all downstairs by my side. Hanging onto Beau’s neck and swinging my hips felt good. I was in and out of the birthing pool, trying to get things progressing, and going to the bathroom as well. Pool, bathroom break, kneeling beside the couch, then back to pool…

As I recall, it went on like this for three to four hours. At hour 11, I felt short of breath and panicky. My doula had been using essential oils on me the entire time, and it was helpful. She used some DoTerra ‘Breathe’ on me when I said, “I feel like I can’t catch my breath!” It helped immediately, though my confidence in myself was waning.

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Wave after wave of overwhelming, squeezing sensations and deep pain came over me. It seemed like I had no break in-between, and I felt so tired. I was always thinking about how much the next contraction was going to hurt and overwhelm me. This was a mistake. I should have just been in the moment, taking the small breaks as they came, and riding along with the waves of intensity, instead of trying to escape them. I wanted to control my situation, and, as any woman who has been in natural labor knows, you cannot control labor. You must give into it and roll along with it. If you don’t, fear can take over and can cause it to feel more painful.

I got a bit nauseous at this point as well. Hot, cold, continual contractions, nausea…all good signs of transition, and yet, I still felt like I wasn’t going to be able to ‘do this’ – which actually is another sign of labor being almost over.

I felt like I wanted to sleep. I got back in the pool and laid my head down on the side, dreading each contraction. They had slowed down, just slightly, but we’re still very intense. I found myself falling asleep for the 30 to 60 seconds in-between them. Somehow, I felt like this wasn’t good, like it was a sign my labor was slowing and stalling. My body, though, obviously needed rest and I couldn’t help it. Beau had gone upstairs, because at this point I didn’t want him touching me, and my mom had come to relieve him. Her presence was sweet and reassuring, and much needed. Beau had a done a wonderful, superb job, but I was in another world and needed female presence and support.

After about 11 and half hours I called out in desperation to God. I cried aloud and unashamed, “Lord I need your help. I don’t feel like I can do this anymore and so, You are going to have to take over. You have to carry me now. I just don’t have it in me!” I had it set in my mind after calling out that I was going to need to endure at least three to four more hours of labor.

Katrina asked me if I wanted to walk up and down the stairs, or go to the bathroom. In my mind I said, Are you freaking kidding me!?! Heck no! I wasn’t about to walk any stairs. I could barely stay awake and standing up made my contractions unbearable. She then, intuitively, asked me to try to stay on my left knee, but lift up my right leg into a squatting position. I had forgotten that this was the same position in which I had pushed Hudson out.

Maybe she remembered. Maybe she just listened to the Lord, but immediately after I brought my leg up I had a very strong, yet relieving contraction. It made me want to push, and that feeling gave me hope! Pushing is the best part, in my opinion: a light at the end of the tunnel. I love my midwife; she’s an angel from God in so many ways.

The next contraction came quickly and I felt a pop and gush. My water broke and this baby was coming! I could feel him slipping quickly down with each moment and told Tessa to get Beau, and quickly. She headed upstairs and told Beau to come. I yelled after her, “Baby’s coming out now! Tell him to come down right now!”

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Beau flew down the stairs and knelt down beside the pool. Seconds later, the head was out. I instinctively cradled it and felt a glorious crown of thick, long, soft baby hair. Katrina made sure the cord wasn’t wrapped around his neck and asked me if I was having another contraction. On the next one, the rest of his body slipped out into my arms and I laid back in the pool with him on my chest. Only three to four pushes, and he was here. I couldn’t believe it, as I had just been preparing myself for hours more of labor.

My first thought? He’s so tiny!

My first baby was 7lbs14oz, and this little guy was 6lbs14oz. He came to me at 6:14pm, as well. That made it easy to remember! His eyes were deep and dark and open, and he cried loud and true moments after I put him on my chest.

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I didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back on the birthing video I found that I kept saying, over and over, “Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus.”. Then, I told my wee one, again and again, “You did so good, baby. You did so good…” All of this was in a high-pitched, euphoric voice. This is just one of the plethora of reasons I love giving birth without drugs. You are totally aware of every emotion and every feeling, and your body produces such a high after the birth – a feeling of I could climb Mount Everest with my baby in hand!

We were going to name him either Noah, or Rueger. Noah just wasn’t right. It seemed to calm and laid-back. He was fiercely strong and his little spirit was a force, a firecracker of a baby. He rolled within the first hour of his life when the midwife was checking him over! Rueger it was! The name as a number of meanings, but one of them was peaceful warrior and we liked that.

After 10 to 15 minutes, I had another contraction and my placenta came easily. By the way, I had pooped a tiny bit in the water, which I didn’t with my first, but it wasn’t a big deal, and I didn’t even know it until later. I know it a common fear, especially when giving birth in the water, but 99% of the time it’s no big deal, and it didn’t phase my midwife one iota.

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Rueger went into daddy’s bare arms and chest, and settled right away. My desire and hope was complete: seeing this wee babe in his daddy’s arms with that look on his face of complete awe and instant love. Skin to skin is so wonderful.

I got up out of the water and made my way, with mom and Katrina on each side, to the bathroom to take a shower. By then the adrenaline shakes had come, and the warm water was nice rolling over my body. I crawled into my own bed, warm and snug, and held my new little monkey. He looked like a little gnome, like a little old Inuit man with a thick, black head of inch-long hair. He was beautiful. He latched on right away and started to explore what would become his favorite comfort and pastime for the next 2 years…nursing!

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It had been a harder labor than my first – longer, more intense, more soul searching, more relying on God for strength, wisdom, perseverance, and peace. It had made me an even stronger woman, a force to be reckoned with. And yet, it had humbled me. It had knocked me back into my Father’s arms to completely realize, in mind, body, and spirit, what my human limits were, and just how vast and never-ending His strength and love truly are.

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Photo of Laboring Mother Touching Her Arriving Baby’s Head

Photo of Laboring Mother Touching Her Arriving Baby’s Head

“When I was pregnant and thought about labour, I hoped for the opportunity to touch my baby’s head if the moment arose, but didn’t realize the challenge of doing so until it was time. I remember seeing his head in the mirror that the doula was holding and thinking this is it, now or never, and I forced myself to lean forward to touch his head. Such a momentous moment. It was exhilarating.” —Mother in photo.
Photography by: Cradled Creations
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