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Focusing Through the Ring of Fire: An Unmedicated, Natural Birth

Focusing Through the Ring of Fire: An Unmedicated, Natural Birth

My husband Chris and I made the decision on having a natural unmedicated birth after watching the documentary “Business of Being Born”. Being the planner that I am, we prepared for our estimated due date, September 21st, for months.  Chris and I were both very determined! Unquestionably, I knew I could do it, despite the doubting comments I’d been receiving from a few close friends and family. I was excited and anxious for the day to finally come, so that I could not only prove them wrong, but to also meet our munchkin and finally find out the gender.

EARLY LABOR?

On September 11th, I was FaceTiming my family at 12 PM JST (we live in Japan), happily bouncing away on my exercise ball. As I was talking to my mom, I felt my belly tighten up. In fact, it was a feeling I had felt many times before, however, that time was different. Unusually, it lasted for about a minute with very mild cramping, so I knew it was different than a Braxton Hicks. However, I chose to ignore it and went about my day, in fear of getting my hopes up.

Later that night, I went to the bathroom before heading to bed. As usual, I checked the toilet paper after I wiped in the hopes I would see something out of the ordinary. I was so anxious for any sign that would indicate our baby was coming soon. Granted, I did see something I didn’t see at all my entire pregnancy: My mucus plug! Yet, I was still skeptical, since there was no blood. With the thought of early labor being too good to be true, I decided to ignore that sign as well.

After a few hours later, I woke up at 2 AM to use the bathroom, and noticed more of my mucus plug, except this time there was a tinge of pink blood! At that point, I began to feel a little hopeful. Of course, it was hard to fall back to sleep, so I searched for forums of other moms who’d experienced the same thing; Desperately wanting to read they ended up going into labor. Guess what? Most of those mothers went into labor within the next 24 hours after losing their mucus plug and experiencing the “bloody show!”

By 5 AM, I began feeling more tightening of my abdomen, in addition to period like cramps that would come and go. Curiously, I decided to start timing them, but unfortunately noticed they weren’t consistent. For this reason, I decided not to tell Chris anything after he woke up for work at 6 AM; trying to avoid him becoming disappointed if I truly wasn’t going into labor. Obviously, I still wasn’t fully convinced.

CONVINCED! EARLY LABOR!

Between 6 AM and noon, I attempted taking a nap, but kept waking up from stronger “cramps”. Since taking a nap seemed impossible, I decided to call my mother to tell her everything that was leading me to think I was in early labor. With a tad bit of worriment in her voice, she assured me I was, and told me I would have our baby very soon. Thanks to my mom, I finally came to accept that I was indeed in early labor. Especially since my contractions were happening every 5 mins!

After hanging up with my mother, I called Chris right away and told him he needed to come home ASAP because we were going to have our baby very soon. Thankfully, he left work immediately. In the meantime, I  paced back and forth in my house and bounced on an exercise ball so my contractions wouldn’t go away. As soon as he got home, I called the hospital, and they instructed me to start heading there when my contractions were 3 mins apart and I was incapable of walking or talking through them. Immediately after hanging up, I timed them and realized they were 2-3 minutes apart! Although my contractions were still bearable, they were very painful.

HOSPITAL TIME

Around 2 PM, we started heading towards the hospital, but stopped at Subway first, since I was told they wouldn’t let me eat anything aside from ice chips after being admitted. Oh my goodness, was it hard to eat my sub due to having to take small bites in between each contraction. First time it had ever taken me that long to eat in my entire life!

As soon as I got to the Mother Infant Care Center, a nurse took me to triage for monitoring and to check if I was dilated. The nurse confirmed I was in fact having very strong contractions, very close together, but I was ONLY 3cm dilated! It turns out because we live about 30 mins away from the hospital they asked me NOT to go home. Instead, they advised me to walk around for two hours and go back to be checked for progression.

Chris asked me if we could go to the barbershop so he could get a haircut. Honestly, I thought I could handle it, so we did. Geez, what a bad idea! I got lots of worried looks while I paced back and forth in front of the barber, as I deeply hummed through each contraction. Can you believe how difficult it was to focus on my breathing knowing I was being stared at? For this reason, my contractions were becoming more and more painful. As soon as Chris walked out of the barber, I urged for us to go back to the hospital because at that point I could not handle walking or talking. Clinging onto Chris’s neck with my arms and swaying my hips side to side during each contraction and then quickly walking when it stopped was the only way we made it back to the car.

Thankfully, we made it back to the hospital and walked for the remaining time in the hallways. If I’m not mistaken, the pain got much worse during those two hours, which led me to think I had to be at least 6cm dilated. At around 6 pm, we walked back, the nurse hooked me back onto the monitors and shortly after, she checked to see if I was making any progress. The nurse told me, yes, my contractions were stronger, but I only progressed to 3 1/2cm. Discouraged is the best word to explain how I felt at that moment. In that moment, I desperately wanted to go home so I could sit in my tub full of hot water to help me through the pain. Unfortunately, they advised me to walk around for another TWO hours so the nurse could check me again for progression.

THE WAITING GAME- ACTIVE LABOR

For the most part, those two hours were a complete blur to me. Honestly, the pain was something I swore I never wanted to experience again. All I could do for the entire two hours was breath and pace down the hospital corridor with Chris by my side, encouraging me to breathe through each contraction. So I continued to remind myself during each contraction that I’d shortly be getting a break and each contraction was just a step closer to meeting our baby.

Two hours later, we walked into Mother Infant Care Center, this time only to be checked for dilation. The nurse looked at me and told me “I’m sorry, but you are only at a 4…” A huge sense of doubt came over me that I didn’t even care what else she had to say. Sadly, we ended up being sent home.

LABORING AT HOME

In a nutshell, I labored all night at home; alternating between- laying in the bathtub filled with hot water, to bouncing, hugging and rolling on the medicine ball, and listened to my hypnobirthing DVD. The DVD helped me focus through the pain I was feeling and reminded me of everything we learned and practiced in our Hypnobirthing class. I’m not going to lie, I was so afraid I would have our baby in the house. So I called the hospital at 3 AM to see if I should go in, but the nurse on the phone instructed me to labor as long as I could at home and to come in the morning. I stayed up all night doing anything possible to help me stay focused and calm. As soon as the clock hit 7 AM, I woke Chris up and we got ready and headed to the hospital.

ADMITTED

When we arrived at the hospital the nurse took me straight to triage, checked me… AND THANK GOD I WAS AT A 6! They asked me if I wanted an epidural and I told them I wasn’t sure. Unfortunately, I was in so much pain I didn’t know how much longer I could take. Out of standard procedure, the anesthesiologist came into triage and discussed the risks of getting an epidural with us. Still unsure, I asked her to give me more time to think about it, so she told me to ask for it whenever I was ready. Chris and I looked at each other, and he lovingly reminded me why we wanted to go natural and helped me remember the pain would go away as soon as I had our baby. Thanks to him, I agreed and decided to stick it out longer.

Soon after, I was admitted into my room at around 8 AM. Chris provided them with our birth plan and went through it with our Midwife and the staff. The heparin lock was placed in case of emergency, and I was intermittently monitored throughout my entire labor, which allowed me as much mobility as I needed. They dimmed the lights and spoke softly just as I’d asked. Between the times of 8 AM to 6 PM, I labored on and off the bed, on the exercise ball they provided, and in and out the shower. Believe it or not, I managed to stay very calm during each contraction by humming through them and switching positions as often as I could.

TRANSITION PHASE

It wasn’t until 6 PM that I started to doubt myself again, lost focus of each contraction and started to wonder how much longer it was going to take. Fear swept through me and I felt like it was never going to end. While I labored in the shower, I turned to Chris with a face of defeat and told him I wanted the epidural. I’ll never forget how he stared right back at me with so much love, and let me know I was the strongest women he has ever met and there was no doubt in his mind I could do it. That’s all I needed in that very moment, he believed in me, so I had to keep pushing!

Deep down I needed some reassurance I was progressing, so I asked him to call the nurse so she could check and confirm I was in the transitioning phase of labor. Sure enough, I was 7cm dilated. In that moment I remember hearing the pain wouldn’t get any more painful after 7 cm and I would have our baby very soon. Shortly after, the nurse spoke to the midwife and they came into the conclusion I wasn’t progressing fast enough. They gave me two options: Have them break my waters or give me one more hour. With the intention of letting my body naturally go through the process of labor, I asked them to please give me one more hour. Thankfully, the midwife granted my wish.

SURRENDING TO THE CONTRACTIONS

Honestly, I don’t remember ANY pain within that hour, and I was no longer moaning, humming or grunting between the contractions. As a matter of fact, I surrendered myself to each surge (contraction) and finally let my body do what it needed to do instead of fighting it. There I sat Indian style on the hospital bed peacefully breathing in and out, in and out, envisioning my baby moving down. Something I learned in my hypnobirthing class and wish I had done from the very beginning.

THE URGE TO PUSH

A little over an hour later, the nurse came in to check me once again, told me I was doing amazing and had progressed to a 9 ½. Needless to say, I felt so empowered and I knew I would make it till the very end. Ten minutes after the nurse left the room, I began to feel so much pressure and an urge to push (a feeling like having to go # 2 lol), so  I decided to listen to my body and lightly pushed and pushed. It wasn’t long until I asked the new nurse to check me because I had a feeling I was going to have the baby very soon. So she did and told me I still wasn’t fully dilated. Even though I was having the urge to push she advised me to wait, however, I chose to listen to my body instead.

I was laying on my side on the hospital bed, working with my body with each surge that would come. Chris was by my side the entire time reminding me how strong I was and how much he loved me. Shortly after pushing a few times, I felt something odd in between my legs, so I lifted up my leg and felt myself down under! With a look of confusion on my face I told the nurse: “I feel the water bag!” She looked at me in shock and asked me what I meant. Then instructed me to lay down on my back so she could take a look. Sure enough, our baby was coming!

DELIVERING OUR BABY

Surprisingly my bags were still intact! Everything happened so quickly after that. My nurse asked me if I’d like to change positions so gravity could help our little one come out. I agreed, so I slowly went from my elbow and knees to my hands and knees on the hospital bed, while Chris applied pressure on my lower back to relieve my back pains.

Our nurse suggested a more comfortable position and brought up the back of the bed so I could rest my arms on it. Such an excellent idea! Chris continued to encourage me to keep lightly pushing and focus on my breathing.

All of a sudden, I pushed and his head began to crown! Yes, I clearly remember placing my hand down there and feeling his head. My water broke and I didn’t even realize it. I panicked and started to scream. The “ring of fire” was indeed no joke my friends! Chris quickly calmed me down and reminded me to focus on my breathing.

Only a few minutes later, I felt our baby come out and Chris announced: “It’s a boy!”. Luckily my umbilical cord was long because I flung around so fast to see our baby, completely forgetting about it!  A sudden burst of energy, emotions, and a natural high took over my body as I reached out and grabbed our baby. Time stood still holding him in my arms for the very first time as we stared at his beautiful little face.  He looked so peaceful and barely cried. Those first few whimpers were music to my ears. I remember looking at him and saying “Hi Jayce! Welcome to the world baby boy.”  It was hard to believe he was finally in my arms after 38 weeks and 6 days of pregnancy and 31 hours of labor. In that moment I knew it was so worth it and would gladly do it 1000 times if I had to.

Chris did the honors of cutting the umbilical cord after it stopped pulsing. Shortly after, he held our son for the first time. My heart melted as I watched the man of my dreams hold our baby and stare at each other with so much love. 

From then on, our lives have never been the same. Thanks to him, we now have a new profound meaning of love. Welcome to the world Jayce. We love you so much.

Side Note: Yes, having an un-medicated birth was difficult, but it was the most beautiful experience I’ve ever had. Again, I would do it again 1000 times if I had to. Bringing Jayce into the world was the most rewarding and one of the happiest moments of my life. I can’t thank God enough for a loving, motivating, supportive husband, a healthy beautiful baby boy and for such a great hospital staff who respected and also helped me have the labor I envisioned and hoped for.

If you’re pregnant and want to achieve a natural – unmedicated birth, I am here to tell you- YOU CAN DO IT! Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or just need some encouragement. I’d be more than happy to be there for you. 

Birth story submitted by Michelle R.

Photographs by Deirdre Leigh.

Willamena’s Birth

Willamena’s Birth

Adoptive mother Davney Nowak shares the birth story of her first biological daughter – an inspiring natural childbirth at a birth center. 

I married my high school sweetheart. Every life choice we made was made with our future children in mind. We got married at 22, and immediately started to try to start our family. I had always been birth- and baby-obsessed. I had shelves full of books about babies, birth, and breastfeeding. I started stocking up on clothes and cloth diapers. After a year of trying to conceive with no luck, we saw a fertility specialist, underwent all the tests and several procedures, and were devastated after our first failed IUI cycle.

We knew we wanted children and wanted them NOW, so we decided to become foster parents. We went through the classes, the home study, the home visits, and we waited. We waited and waited and waited for that first call. The call finally came – and we quickly had a house full with three kids under the age of two; and after a few years, had a house FULL with five kids under the age of five, and were on the road to adoption for three of them. I grieved the biological babies I would never have, as well as the natural birth experience I had studied so much about, but we were happy and grateful for the family we had. Every child we brought into our home (six all together, in three years) was treated as they were our own, and we did all we could for them while we had them.

One day, after being nauseated and tired for several days (which I attributed to a stomach bug my kids had), I realized I couldn’t remember the last time I had had my period. While running errands with the kids, I grabbed a pregnancy test (the first one since we completely gave up hope three years earlier). I didn’t mention it to my husband, because I assumed it would be negative, but something told me I had to take it. We got home, I took the test, and the second line immediately showed up.

I just sat there and stared at that test. I honestly couldn’t believe I was staring at two pink lines. My husband barged into the bathroom to ask me if I needed to add anything to the grocery list, and I said, “This is positive!” He was so confused because he didn’t even know I was taking a test, and he kept saying, “No, that’s negative!”

I responded with, “I’ve seen PLENTY of negative tests—this is positive!” He was completely confused, and left to go grocery shopping. He says it started to sink in while he was there, and he bought several digital tests and chocolate. He finally started to believe me when he saw the word “Pregnant” on the digital tests.

The next morning, I woke up with severe nausea. After two days, I was completely unable to take care of the kids. I couldn’t even leave the bathroom, and I slept on the floor. I lost 15 pounds in three days and was almost hospitalized for dehydration. (Thank goodness for Zofran!) I spent the majority of my pregnancy feeling sick, and gained no weight. (Also during my pregnancy, two of our foster kids went back to their biological families, so we just had the three children we would later adopt.)

After several weeks, it finally sunk in that I was actually pregnant and that I finally had a chance at the natural birth I’d dreamed about. I saw an OB for a few months, who didn’t even have much hope that I could deliver vaginally. At around 25 weeks, I was extremely pleased to find a birth center an hour away, and I met my amazing midwives. I spent the rest of my pregnancy taking birth classes and doing all I could to prepare for the natural birth I’d always planned for.

One night in my 39th week, after an especially active day, I finally laid down for bed. It was 12:30 a.m. and had just turned to October 19th, which was my daughter’s birthday. This was the one day I didn’t want the baby to be born because I didn’t want them to have to share a birthday. But as soon as I lay down, I immediately had a contraction. Then two minutes later I had another one. And then another. It was impossible for me to lie down during these contractions. After several consistent contractions, I decided to get up and take a shower and clean the house, in case this was really it. I let my husband nap so he could support me later.

I spent some time just soaking in the tub. I reread some birth affirmations I’d collected, and used the time to really center myself and focus. I chose the mantra, “Pressure; not pain” while I soaked, and continued to use those words throughout my labor. After a few hours I called my mom and sisters, and busied myself around the house, all during consistent back labor. I finally woke my husband up so he could do the dishes because I couldn’t imagine coming home from the birth center to a pile of dirty dishes!

After about three hours of consistent, every-two-minutes contractions, I called my midwife who told me to go ahead and come in to the birth center. My family congregated at my house so we could leave together, and my sister-in-law stayed with the kids. I just kept thinking, “Of course, the one day I didn’t want to go into labor, and here we are!” We all got to the birth center at about 5 a.m. The hour-long drive through curvy back roads, with back labor, was torturous!

My midwife, Lisa, checked me and said I was dilated to four centimeters. My contractions had slowed down in the car. She told me to go back home and rest, because she thought my labor would be long. I decided I wasn’t going to go home because I couldn’t imagine another hour in the car with those awful contractions, and then another hour to come back when it was time.

My mom and sisters and I decided to go to Walmart to walk around, in hopes that labor would pick back up. My dad and husband stayed and napped in the parking lot of the birth center. Walking definitely worked; and we made many comments about having a Walmart baby! After an hour, contractions were about 90 seconds apart; so we headed back to the birth center at about 9 a.m., and I told my midwife I wasn’t leaving again!

I met one of the nurses, Leanna, while I was getting in the birth tub. Once I settled into the water, the contractions were manageable. I labored there for several hours, and got into what I call my “birth zone”. At this point, I was completely lost in myself trying to manage the back labor. I completely lost sense of time, and was unaware of who was in the room. My husband and Leanna took turns pouring water down my back and applying pressure during each contraction. Both of them were amazing and never left my side.

At some point they had me get out of the tub, and they determined that the baby was not in an optimal position. They had me try many different positions to get her to turn, and they had me labor out of the tub for several hours. This was torture! All I wanted was to be back in the water.

Finally in the late afternoon, Lisa suggested that it was time to head to the hospital since I’d already been in labor for so long and was exhausted. I kept saying I was sure that if I did, I would have a cesarean section; and that I just wanted to give birth and go home and be with my other kids. I asked to just get back in the tub for awhile. During each contraction, I said after the next contraction I would get out and we could go to the hospital. I remember thinking that there would be no way I could handle a contraction out of the water. I couldn’t even fathom walking to the car! I just wanted to stay in the tub.

Finally, at around 11:00 p.m., I heard a “POP!” and realized my water had broken. Soon afterward, I felt it was time to push. I don’t know how long I pushed for, but I remember after several pushes just deciding that I was going to give the next push everything I had; and then I heard Leanna say, “Pull her up!” The baby was out, and I hadn’t even realized it! I laid back and pulled her to my chest. She was perfect! The first thing I said was, “She looks just like me!”

I couldn’t believe I had finally had a natural birth with the miracle baby I never thought we would have. I did it!

Willamena Faye Felice was born at 11:39 p.m., weighing 7 pounds 8 ounces, and was 20.5 inches long. She was born on her big sister’s third birthday.

Her daddy cut her cord and then held her skin-to-skin while I got out of the tub. We stayed and rested and nursed for a few hours, then came home so the big kids could meet her. They absolutely love their baby sister.

We adopted our three oldest kids a few months later, on February 28th, 2014. We felt the day was perfect, because it was February 28th, 2013 that I had gotten that positive pregnancy test. Then again, on February 28th, 2015 our next surprise miracle baby was conceived; and he will be making his appearance in the next few weeks. Life has a funny way.

Willa’s birth changed me. It taught me just how strong I am. I always say, that if I can survive 23 hours of natural back labor, with a posterior baby with a nuchal hand, that I can do anything! Willa has furthered my passion for natural birth. Soon I will be starting classes to become a certified Childbirth Educator and Lactation Educator.

After being faced with the fact that we may never have children or a family, after that is what we desired most out of life, we look at our family as an extra special blessing. Every day we look at these four (almost five!) little faces and can’t believe they are ours!

Medication-Free Hospital Birth

Medication-Free Hospital Birth

Elizabeth Turner shares the story of her empowering medication-free hospital birth.

Since having my daughter Avery two years ago, I spent a great deal of time thinking of how I would have changed my birth experience. Watching my sisters birth their daughters after me, and numerous friends do the same, I had come up with a small list of things I certainly did not want to take place, if I had the control. I truly wouldn’t change my experience with Avery – it’s all I knew, and her unique story sort of describes her personality – however, knowing I had a do-over with my son, Cole, I did have the opportunity to change some of my goals.

Natural childbirth. Most called me crazy; I had called my sister crazy. In my mind I had a failed epidural, so I knew what to expect; it would be hard, but I could do it. I was only correct about one of the above statements.

My labor started very different with Cole. I experienced prodromal labor for three days before the actual labor day began. All morning on Saturday, January 17 I could feel that it was the day. Avery and I walked at target for two hours with my sister Lauren and my niece Alaina, just to keep myself moving. I never had contractions – just typical Braxton Hicks.

When I got home, my husband woke up, which was weird for him as he works third shift. It was noon, but he was wired. I started having really lame contractions that I could time, but which weren’t painful. Ben, my husband, made me a tuna sandwich for lunch, and I immediately threw it up. At 2 p.m., when I went to the bathroom, I passed my mucus plug. I started getting excited! Contractions were still lame, but I was still so excited at the prospect of meeting my son so soon!

At around 3-4 p.m. the contractions, though still not painful, were increasing in length and frequency. I wanted some type of sign that this was it – that this was labor. There were so many moving parts this time; my mom had to come up from over an hour away to watch Avery, and my husband needed all of his time so he didn’t want to call out unless it was truly go-time. I decided that if by 6:30 I was still not sure, I would decide then.

At 5:30, I had an epiphany. I called my mom and had Ben call out sick. My contractions may not have shown I was ready, but I knew it was happening. I decided to shower and get ready. In the shower each contraction made me need to pee. I literally stood in the shower contracting and peeing, peeing and contracting.

When my mom arrived at around 7:30, I was in full panic mode. Contractions were still very bearable, but my emotions were not. Months of guilt surrounding this moment built up and overflowed. I was crying for my daughter, who had no idea how her life was about to change. But by 8 p.m. I stopped crying, and we finally left for the hospital. I remember texting my sister on our way, asking what the chances were that I would deliver before midnight – “Slim to none.”

We arrived at the hospital and got into our room at around 8:40 p.m. They hooked me up to monitor my contractions, and the nurse checked me. My heart sank when she said she felt I was only 2 cm dilated. She tried to sound positive, noting that with second babies anything could happen.

Part of me was angry. The only reason I had gone to the hospital so early is because I had tested positive for Group B Strep and knew I needed to get two doses of penicillin, though I really didn’t want to get any of it (and only ended up with one dose, defeating the whole purpose). I was annoyed because my original birth plan had been to labor at home as long as possible, and instead, due to the Group B Strep, I was here at the hospital already at only 2 cm dilated and 80% effaced. That’s the funny thing about plans though, isn’t it?

The nurse said she’d come back at 10 o’clock to check me again and see if they would be admitting me or not. The doctor still had not been in my room. The nurse asked if I wanted to walk around or go in the birthing tub. Not feeling like my contractions were very strong, I wanted to walk around and continue to get this labor going.

I did have to use the rest room, which is where I finally noticed my contractions getting stronger; so I labored there for a while. The desire to pee was still strong, and of course like any good labor, I had to poop as well. Each time I tried to move from the toilet I would get a contraction, which made me feel like I needed to pee or poop. It was a vicious cycle.

I finally peeled myself away from the bathroom and leaned against a window ledge, with Ben behind me rubbing my back and hips. He was amazing support. I paced back and forth through the hospital room in between contractions. At some points leaning over chairs, hugging or hanging from Ben; anything that alleviated some of the pain of the contractions, which had gotten noticeably stronger.

When the nurse came back in just after 10:00, she had me lie down to check me and see if I should be admitted. In an hour, I had progressed from 2 cm to 4-5 cm dilated. She said my cervix was melting away and that things were going fast. The doctor then made her way into my room to introduce herself and discuss my birth plan.

I mentioned not wanting any Pitocin at all should labor stall, and that I didn’t want any pain medication offered to me, and that I wanted to labor in the birth tub as soon as the penicillin was administered. I wanted to chose how and when to push when the time came.

I had specific desires for Cole when he was born. I wanted him immediately on my chest, and breastfeeding as soon as possible. I wanted to delay cutting and clamping the cord until it had stopped pulsating. I did not want any interventions within the first sensitive hour of his life. All I wanted, quite simply, was to bond with him as naturally as medically possible. That was my plan. Again, those pesky plans…!

When the doctor discussed the birth tub, she mentioned wanting me to be checked in 15 minutes to see if I had progressed any further before deciding whether I’d be able to go in the tub. Again, those silly second babies – things can change fast.

Our nurse walked down to the labor tub and filled it up for us. She brought in an exercise ball and turned on the shower. I felt a drastic difference in my contractions, but attributed it to lying flat on my back and unable to really work with them as I would have wanted to. At around 10:45 she checked me again, as my penicillin was finally finished. The hope was that I wouldn’t have progressed much so that I could labor in the tub; however, that wasn’t the case.

Within 45 minutes, I had gone from 4-5 cm to 7-8 cm dilated. The tub was no longer an option, as it was not meant to birth in. Once she disconnected me from the monitors, I was free to get up and move. As I tried to sit up, I got the worst contraction I had so far. I lay partially on my side, but still on my back with my legs awkwardly crossed. I was paralyzed. I joked that it was possibly the worst position to labor in, but still I never moved.

The contractions continued to come with crazy intensity. There was no gradual progression of the contractions getting worse – they had gone from very bearable to ungodly in an hour’s time. I knew this is what I signed up for. I wanted to feel this; feel my body, and trust that my body knew what it was doing. I wanted to trust that my baby would do what he was supposed to.

A friend of mine had given me the affirmations for birth, and I kept repeating one to myself – one that you all will recognize: “Vaginas do open, babies do come out.” I knew I could do this, but man did I underestimate the pain.

At around 11:15 I remember looking at the clock and thinking, “Is he seriously going to be born today? I can’t possibly be in this much pain for much longer, right? I can only have so much energy to breathe through these contractions.” I remember having to pee, but having zero energy to move, so I peed in a bed pan. I must have apologized 40 times to our nurse for random things – her having to hold a bed pan while I peed was one of them. I kept telling myself that I needed my energy reserve, and that it was fine.

Shortly after, the contractions felt like an earthquake running through my body. The urge to push was life-altering; I tried as hard as I could to breathe through the contractions and not push, but my body was doing it anyway. The nurse checked me again, and I was still only 8 cm at 11:30. This can’t be happening, I thought – the contractions have been stronger in this last hour then ever before, yet now is when my cervix takes a break?

The nurse offered to have the doctor break my water; “It may get more intense but it could speed things up,” she said. Though I had almost no brainpower flowing, I did have the right mind to say no, and that I would let it break on its own.

No sooner did I say that, I got another contraction that was so strong that Ben tells me the monitor couldn’t register the peak of it. It peaked three different times before finally going down. Toward the middle of the contraction, I couldn’t help it – I pushed. And with that push, my water broke. The pressure release was amazing, and actually stopped me from having another contraction for a couple minutes instead of right on top of it.

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With my water breaking, Cole chose to surprise us with his first poop. I knew what it meant when there is meconium in the water, but nothing really prepares you for that announcement. The nurse, very matter-of-factly and with a little nervousness in her voice, said that the plan had changed a little, and that they were going to do everything they could to keep my birth plan how I had hoped, but if he wasn’t crying, some things may need to be altered.

She ran over to the phone, and called pediatrics to have a pediatrician in the room on standby. She checked me and said I was basically 10 with an anterior lip, and that I’d be able to push within five minutes. The pediatrician she spoke to was apparently rude to my nurse, because she told us when she hung up she wanted her to call her back when I started to push.

My OB was back in the room, nurses filled the room, and I got a contraction so strong Cole crowned without me doing anything. The feeling petrified me. The burning was so intense, and I didn’t know how on earth was I supposed to push into that sort of pain. Knowing that was how it would feel if I pushed, I couldn’t fathom having to do it again.

They hurried to get me ready to push, putting pads under me, moving the bed apart, and putting my body where it needed to be. My husband and one of the nurses held my legs. I felt a contraction coming, and they all told me to slow down and let it build up. I had no patience for that, though; I was about to lose my nerve. So I began pushing, and in less then 30 seconds, Cole’s head was out.

I took a breath, and continued to bear down. They all told me to slow down, but I couldn’t. With my next breath, Cole’s body was delivered and he was placed on my chest. Born January 17, 2015 at 11:48 p.m., he made it earth-side with about three hours of active labor and less than two minutes of pushing.

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As we suspected, he was not born crying, as they hoped he would. The baby nurse still tried suctioning him on my chest to try and get him to breathe on his own. When he hadn’t, they asked Ben to quickly cut the cord. No sooner as those scissors sliced through did he take a big breath, and you could hear those handsome lungs. The pediatrician finally made her way into the hospital room, noting, “I hear a healthy cry and see a pink baby, what am I doing here?” Luckily, my baby boy was perfect despite him being a premature pooper.

The concern shifted a bit to me. This is where my understanding and memory of it is not as clear. I do recall the unbearable pain of my nurse putting all her body weight into my abdomen. I remember the doctor spending an awful lot of time after he had arrived. Some of my placenta seemed to have stayed inside of me, causing a lot of bleeding and clotting; so they hooked me up to pitocin to deliver the placenta, and more to continue the contractions to try to get the clots out. My doctor had to assist in this effort. Things were a little scary for a while, but finally the bleeding was under control. They kept a closer eye on my postpartum bleeding because of it, but it didn’t cause any further complications.

Finally, it was just me and my baby snuggling together. He searched for my breast and immediately latched on. He was awesome. We were taking guesses as to how big he was. We knew by looking he wasn’t the 9lb 14oz baby his sister was, but then again she was born at 42 weeks and he was born at 38.5 weeks. After our full hour of skin-on-skin and breastfeeding, he was weighed in at 8lbs 1oz and 20.25 inches. Ben was the closest as he guessed 8lbs even. He was truly perfect. We still couldn’t believe what a peanut he was!

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Looking back on both of my experiences, one thing is clear to me: my epidural was numbing my vagina by the time I pushed out Avery. I may have felt all my contractions and pain, but my vagina had never felt pain like that, till I pushed out a much-smaller baby Cole!

If we are to ever have a third baby, I would 100% choose natural birth. Not because it was easier or because my recovery was any better, but because the feeling was so empowering. I could feel my body. I trusted my body. There was no doubt in my mind that my baby would be here and I knew that the pain would be fleeting. I am so proud of accomplishing my goal. Moreover, I’m so happy that my body allowed for it to happen. I know a lot of people who would have killed for that experience. Not everyone has the optimal birth experience, so I am extremely grateful that I was able to have mine.

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Welcome to the world my baby Cole, you are my unique little man, and we are so happy you chose to meet us when you did. We are thrilled to be a family of four.

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Natural Breech Birth at Home

Natural Breech Birth at Home

Jessica Winquist shares the story of her daughter’s breech birth – a beautiful, natural birth at home. 

At my 32-week check, my midwife, Sarah*, found the Cub (our nickname for the baby-to-be) to be breech. We were planning a home birth in New York City, and New York State home birth regulations prohibit breech home births. Also, a C-section for breech presentation is considered the standard of care in NYC. Over the next few weeks, we tried everything to get the Cub to turn, but nothing worked; not even the external cephalic version. We barely slept the night after the ECV. Our options were to schedule the C-section, pay over $15,000 for the one doctor in NYC who does breech vaginal deliveries (in a hospital nonetheless), or drive while in labor to upstate New York to a midwife who is known for doing breech deliveries. All of these options sounded terrible, so I called Sarah and begged her for the umpteenth time to allow me to have a breech home birth. In spite of her own fears and hesitation because of the legality of breech home delivery, Sarah agreed. The Cub was frank breech (butt first), which is the safest type of breech delivery. We understood the risks associated with breech delivery and made an informed decision to move forward with our home birth.

On Saturday, September 13, 2014, I woke up feeling extra achy and uncomfortable, but I didn’t let it slow me down. I made Chris breakfast, and then we headed downtown to run errands. All day I kept asking Chris to rub my lower back, but I really wasn’t sure if the aches and pains meant anything. When we got home from a friend’s birthday dinner that night, I of course had to pee. When I finished peeing, tons more “pee” came out. I sat there for a minute not sure if I was imagining that my water had broken. I yelled for Chris that I thought my water had broken. He came running and asked why I thought that – I said I had never experienced my water breaking before, and he said neither had he (with more than a little panic in his voice); and we just stared at each other for a minute. It was clear that my water really had broken when I got up from the toilet and the “pee” didn’t stop. I called Sarah and she told me I probably had a while until the contractions began so I should get some sleep. It is very hard to sleep with that much excitement!

In the early morning, I texted the friends who I wanted to know, and talked to my mom about her coming down from upstate New York. My mom arrived at our apartment at around 12:30pm, while I was baking the Cub’s very first birthday cake and some lactation cookies.

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I had started feeling little contractions around 9am, but they were really irregular and not very painful. Stephanie, the acupuncturist who tried to get the Cub to turn to a vertex presentation, came over at 2:30pm to help kick start labor. After she left, contractions became more regular (about every 6 minutes) and stronger. Chris and I went for a walk to get food from the diner and to the pharmacy for castor oil. At 4:52pm, while in line at the pharmacy, I felt more of a gush. When we got to the diner, I checked and I had lost the rest of my mucus plug (I had lost some of it about an hour and a half earlier). When we got home, we went up to our rooftop to walk laps and to watch the sunset (and later on we enjoyed the night sky). The contractions did pick up in strength and frequency.

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I also took some castor oil at 6pm, so perhaps that was a factor in making things progress. At 6:45pm, the castor oil “kicked in” and the contractions starting gaining in strength, frequency and duration. Chris says that the contractions lengthened to a minute long and were consistently 3 minutes apart but I really didn’t notice clocks at all. At 7pm, on the roof, I had a contraction that lasted about 3 minutes (or perhaps just 3 contractions back to back). That was when it felt like we were getting down to business!

At 11pm I asked my doula, Emily, to come over because I felt like she could be helpful to me in relaxing. I had mixed up some aromatherapy tinctures a few weeks before and Emily used the one for pain management when rubbing my back. I definitely think it helped (not to mention how much Emily’s massage therapy skills helped). I started feeling shaky and there were some tears shed as the pain level increased. It wasn’t because of the pain that I got teary so much as the anxiety associated with it; but I quickly calmed myself down. Whenever Emily walked away to do something and a contraction would come, I would yell for her because the counter-pressure on my back really saved me. This became even truer after I got into the tub and hit transition. The contractions were now about 2 minutes apart.

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Chris went to get some sleep, and I felt in good hands with Emily. Chris ended up sleeping until just shortly before Sarah arrived at 2am. I was annoyed with him for sleeping for so long, but I also knew he needed his strength. He wasn’t experiencing the same adrenaline rush!

When Sarah came in, she saw me talking, and thought that I had called for her too early. But she was so surprised when she checked me and said I was 6cm but could easily be stretched to 7cm. She was just amazed that during contractions I was all business but when they ended I went back to chatting. I just felt relaxed and happy being in my own home surrounded by people I trusted. Chris filled the tub after Sarah checked me and I got into the water right as transition hit, around 3am.

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Transition mostly consisted of back-to-back contractions that upped the pain level to an 11, but only during the peaks. During the contractions I would hold onto Chris and vocalize while Emily pushed on my back. This is definitely when I needed people to breathe with me to keep me from hyperventilating. The contractions were so intense but it really helped me to know that they would end and I would get a break. Sometimes the breaks were very short, but even getting a small window where things were calm kept me calm. I had the Hypnobabies “Easy First Stage” track on throughout the entire labor. A lot of the time it was just in the background and I ignored it, but it soothed me a lot just to have it on. Everyone agreed that it relaxed me and was great.

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At 5am, I asked Sarah if I could push, because it made the contractions hurt less if I pushed a little. She said I could, but that also she wanted to check me. It was tough for me to be on my back, even in the water, but I endured it for one contraction while she checked. She said I was fully dilated and could push. I pushed in the water for just a little while; because honestly, the water was pretty nasty with bodily fluids by this point, and I just wanted to get out. So first I went to the toilet and pushed there, but that didn’t last very long. Then I moved to the birth stool in my bedroom. I sat on it facing everyone except Chris, who was on the bed behind me, and whom I held onto for dear life between contractions. The contractions followed a pattern – initially they were very painful and it felt like the Cub was literally stretching me open, but then the feeling would change to an intense need to push. Once my body was bearing down, it was hard for me to not push with everything I had in me. I was pouring sweat and the level of intensity in those contractions was astounding. After spending about an hour (I assume?) on the birth stool, I moved to hands and knees on the bed. I liked this position but the birth assistant, Ellen, kept trying to get me to try something different. I just kept saying no to her and that I couldn’t move. I never said I couldn’t push this baby out but I firmly believed she was nuts for thinking I could do things like lunges at that moment.

At one point, the Cub’s heart rate was elevated; so Ellen asked me not to push for two contractions. That was CRAZY. I kept alternating between pushing and panting through those because it felt literally impossible for me to not push at all. It was enough to bring the Cub’s heart rate back down. I kept pushing on my hands and knees but Ellen wanted me to give my pelvis some asymmetry to help the Cub with fitting through (hence the request that I try lunges!). I rolled into a side-lying position, and as soon as I did that, a huge contraction hit and I bore down with all of my might. Chris was behind me and held my leg up while the Cub’s butt was delivered. Out came her butt, after which she immediately pooped and peed. Then her legs came out one at a time. I pushed again and her torso was out. Everyone rolled me back onto hands and knees (I didn’t help them do it at all – I just went with it) so that gravity would help to get the Cub’s head out. Next, her arms came out one at a time and then her shoulders were out. This was the MOST insane feeling. To know that her body was entirely outside of me but to feel the crazy pressure and pain of her head still inside was just astounding. After two or three pushes with every bit of strength I could muster, out came her head. We had a baby after 2 hours and 15 minutes of pushing!

I was on my hands and knees, and really just in shock. I looked at Chris and he was crying so I started to cry and then we kissed before even turning to look at the baby. Sarah was holding her and telling me to turn around but I was so stunned that it took me a bit to realize she was talking to me and that I was supposed to turn over. I maneuvered myself around the umbilical cord and watched as Sarah tried to get the Cub to cry. She was still getting oxygen from the umbilical cord, but she looked so dazed. She wasn’t breathing or crying but she was looking around the room. Sarah kept trying to annoy her into crying, but that didn’t work; so she stuck the tube down her throat to clear it out, and then gave her oxygen to try to get her lungs started. Sarah had to repeat those steps twice, but eventually the Cub started making noise (although not crying) and she pinked up. After a few minutes, Sarah had Chris cut the cord, and the Cub was free. She had a bruise on her right hip, so she was probably at an angle coming through the birth canal, and me lying on my side made my pelvis asymmetrical and helped her to be born. That fulfilled the “lunge” request without me actually having to do lunges! The Cub’s APGAR score was a 6 at 1 minute, and an 8 at 5 minutes – not perfect, but I’ll take it!

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I was bleeding (a normal amount) and cramping while holding the Cub, so I handed her to Chris so I could finish my work. I pushed a little and felt the placenta start to detach, and then Sarah checked and knew it was close to coming out. So she pulled slightly on the cord while I gave a small push and it was an instant relief to have that separate. The placenta was HUGE (we weighed it: 2.5 lbs!) and I got 130 pills from having it encapsulated!

I only had one skid mark, so Sarah said it would heal on its own. I was in some pain, but overall felt really good. It was just so wonderful to have the breech home birth that I envisioned. I felt like a warrior woman. Welcome to the world, Dahlia Miriam! Born on Monday, September 15, 2014 at 7:15am, weighing 7 lbs 8 oz and measuring 20 inches long.

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*Name changed to protect our midwife’s identity because of the legal implications of this birth story.

Unassisted Homebirth of a Baby Girl

Unassisted Homebirth of a Baby Girl

Amanda Rogowski shares the story of her second daughter’s birth – a beautiful and empowering unassisted birth at home. 

I decided to have an unassisted birth before I even had children. I have always believed in women’s abilities and intuition. I remember trying to tell my husband, Krzys, with our first pregnancy, and he thought I was insane. I couldn’t even convince him to do a home birth at that time, but I did manage to get him on board with a birth center.

After a long and chaotic laboring experience I ended up at the hospital for an epidural after 18 hours of labor, and was blessed by my sweet baby girl Anzley after 25 hours. After having Anzley, I kept planting the seed of a free birth with Krzys. Then we got pregnant with our second child, and he was still not comfortable with it. I continued to explain that I didn’t need outsiders and showed Krzys all the research and information I could find while preparing myself as well. I got the absolute minimum care by my midwife; after two prenatal visits and my 20 week anatomy scan, Krzys and I finally agreed on the birth of our baby.

I felt so relieved to have my husband’s support and I was free to follow my intuition for the rest of my pregnancy. I made sure to take care of myself and baby very well; nutrition and exercise were top priorities. I had chiropractic care throughout my pregnancy. I spent all of my spare time researching birth; but not out of need. It started as preparation, but pregnancy and birth became more of a hobby. I loved learning more and more, right up until I went into labor.

I awoke around 2:30 am to a contraction and needing to go to the bathroom. I wasn’t able to get anything out, so I went back to bed. I couldn’t sleep. I was feeling contractions every 3 to 10 minutes, varying in times and strength. I decided to get up, get some water, and decided to sit on my birth ball. Lying in bed only made the surges more painful.

I knew at this point that labor had started and I needed to stay hydrated and relaxed. It was different this time around. With Anzley the emotions took over when I started labor; just being so excited and then so scared of what was to come. With this baby I was in bliss; I knew that I had some work to do before it would truly be time and I wanted to let my body do all the work. I set my birth ball in front of the couch and after contractions I would lean over and nap for a few minutes before the next one came.

With each surge I felt it slowly build up, reach its peak, and then slowly let go. It was like I was exercising – flowing with each one, and then returning to complete relaxation after. It was an amazing feeling to be able to do that, and to be so happy and relaxed in this tranquil state of mind. I remember praying for the baby’s safe arrival, for strength to allow my body to work as it should, and just to stay relaxed…I knew that was my key.

After a bit of laboring I decided to light my labor candle from my Blessingway and let my prayer team know; that was at 3:30. I took a picture of the lit candle and texted it to the girls. I then sent a quick text to my doula letting her know that labor had started but I was handling things well. It was so nice sitting in the quiet of night with just the room lit by candle. It was beautiful.

I used the restroom again and somewhere around 4 I decided it was time to wake up Krzys. When I did, I told him, “I’m in labor.” His response was, “No you’re not, come lay down.” I immediately went, “Excuse me,” and then had to bend over to deal with a contraction. I guess that was proof enough because he then got out of bed.

I went back to my ball and Krzys asked what I needed. I asked for a little back rub, and then breakfast. I knew I might get to a point where food would be unappetizing and I wanted to get some nutrition in for the long journey I was facing. I requested French toast. I told Krzys my contractions were about 10 minutes apart; after that statement he told me they were much closer because he had just timed four minutes. I think I was being a bit naïve and also not wanting to concentrate on timing them at all, so I think I was guessing on purpose so as not to pay attention…but I did notice they were getting much closer and I was beginning to feel chills as well. After another trip to the bathroom I was freezing, so Krzys covered me with a blanket. Then a contraction would come and I would be hot and sweaty so I’d pull it off. Then it would pass and I would be cold again. This went on for probably 20 minutes.

I started to lose my concentration, focusing on being hot and cold, and on the discomfort of the blanket touching my skin. It was all starting to bother me, which pulled me from my focus. I told Krzys I needed a change and thought I needed the pool now. He immediately began working on getting it set up and filled, checking on me every few minutes for a quick rub, hand on my shoulder, reassuring statement of my strength. After another visit to the restroom he called my doula and had me touch base with her. I heard him telling her that it seemed to be going so much quicker. My doula asked how I was handling things, and I felt I was doing great. All within the norm. In my mind I was prepared for around 12 hours of this, since labor with my first was so long. I prayed a few times for the strength to make it until lunch time.

It was strange that before Krzys woke up I was fine with being by myself. But once I had him there, when he had to leave my side I felt uneasy. I started to lose my grip on any sort of relaxation when a surge came, and knew I needed to refocus. Krzys said the pool wasn’t full but I didn’t care. I used the restroom again and when I returned I went straight into the room and got right in. The water was hot and only to my lower back when I got in…it felt amazing! I immediately felt relaxed again. With each surge my lower back was hurting more and more and there was a moment when I wondered if this was back labor. I told Krzys when I got in the pool to tell the doula to come now; this was at 5:20.

I enjoyed laboring in the pool when the water was steamy, so the second it started to cool I was requesting boiling water from Krzys to add to it. He was so wonderful. He held my hands through the contractions, and as I closed my eyes he read the many affirmations I had all over the room to me. It was so encouraging to hear him have so much faith in me and my body’s ability. I prayed a lot during my contractions. I knew God gave me the ability to do this; I told him I trusted him; I knew I was safe, I knew he was with me. I don’t know if I’ve ever been as close to God as I was in those hours.

The doula arrived shortly after I got in the pool; I remember seeing her sneakers still on her feet when she came into the room, and thinking how I can’t stand when people wear shoes in the house – but I couldn’t pull from my task at hand to say something.

She immediately got me refocused. She breathed with me through the contractions to remind me to blow it out, and it worked. Looking into her eyes gave me something to focus on and reminded me not to focus on the contraction itself. I had to use the restroom again. Boy did I hate going to the bathroom at this point. It wasn’t even like I was going all that much. It was the fact that when I was in there, sitting on the toilet, and the contraction came I felt so much worse. I couldn’t breathe the same, I couldn’t relax, my muscles felt tighter, it was awful. I told Krzys to hand me my daughter’s potty insert, the little cup that sits in the seat that she actually pees in to. I just stood up, held that between my legs and went. It was so much easier than that awful bathroom.

I don’t remember if Anzley woke up while I was in the tub or out but she was awake around her usual time – 6:30 or 7:00 am. She came into the room, stared at me and asked what I was doing.

Krzys told her that I was having the baby and she said, “Oh, okay, can I have some yogurt?”

I couldn’t laugh, but in my mind I just couldn’t get over how cute she was.

When I returned the last time from the bathroom I didn’t get back into the tub. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to or didn’t like it; I just didn’t get back in. For some reason I walked right past it and leaned over onto the bed instead. Throughout labor I was fully aware of my body and was listening to it and to my intuition. Something told me not to go back in, so I didn’t. I tried hands and knees on the bed since my back was hurting so much, but it didn’t seem to help at all.

I ended up splaying out and then just leaning/rolling on to my side when the surge passed. That’s where I spent the rest of my time. I can’t explain why it felt good, but it did. My doula was behind me cradling me from behind, reminding me to breathe with each contraction. This is when I went completely into myself. The surges were so strong at this point. Crying out did no good, and to stay relaxed I stayed quiet. I closed my eyes and just breathed. I remember praying some more.

With each contraction I took a big breath and slowly blew it out through my mouth, all while opening my hands as far as I could relaxing them and waving them down my side and away from my tummy. I traced the outline of my naked body (I was only wearing my sports bra at this point) over and over again, while imagining the force of the surge working through me and slowly letting loose once it hit the end of my vagina. I let them each blow through me and away from me, breathing and relaxing every part of my body I could. I didn’t tense up my tummy, legs, forehead, or any other part of my body. It was hard work but I had to stay relaxed.

During those last few contractions I had to go to the bathroom again, but I did not want to be on that toilet. So I kept telling myself, “After this next contraction I’ll go really fast.” Then the next one would come and go, and I’d say, “After the next one.” I finally couldn’t wait anymore. I opened my eyes to see my doula looking down on me from above, and Krzys sitting next to me. I told them I had to use the restroom and sat up. I had one contraction on the way to the bathroom in the hallway; Krzys held me up while I hunched over and drooped in his arms. Then after I had sat on the toilet, the doula came in and Krzys said he was going to check on Anzley.

The doula crouched in front of me on the toilet and asked if I felt the pressure to push, or if I really needed to go to the bathroom. I got a little annoyed with this question and responded rather snarky, “I have to go to the bathroom. I’ve had a baby before; I know the difference.” I had to pee and pushed too, then saw my waters break right into the toilet. I looked up at the doula and told her my water just broke. I guess I kind of yelled it because Krzys ran back to the bathroom.

I had an awful contraction that made me grab at everything in the bathroom. I was holding the toilet paper holder and sink, moaning and partially whimpering before it passed. When it was over, I felt as though my vagina was swollen so I put my hand on it to check, it was definitely swollen and felt rounded. The doula said, “Amanda that’s the baby’s head.” I was shocked and giddy.

She asked where I wanted to have the baby, and I told her the birth pool, definitely in the water. She said we needed to get there right away, and put her arm out to help me up (I was still sitting on the toilet, mind you). Only, when I went to stand it felt very, very wrong. I told her I couldn’t move; that I wasn’t going anywhere. She asked me to bend down and get on my hand and knees on the floor. I said, “No, I can’t move.”

The next surge came; only it was different. It felt like electricity passing through me. The surge took over my body from head to toe and I felt myself shake as I yelled. The baby’s head was out. I was shocked because I didn’t do any pushing and there was her head! I cradled her head in one hand while holding the sink with the other. I leaned back, tilting my rump up as far as I could to keep my hand holding the baby’s head and shielding it from the rim of the seat.

I looked to my right and saw Krzys and Anzley standing in the doorway, and another electric surge started. I shook and screamed, and the baby came flying out of me in seconds.

I can’t even explain how I picked her up – I just did. It was all so natural. I had her cradled in my arms on my chest as I looked over at Krzys, who was holding Anzley. Their faces showed exactly how I felt. Shock and amazement.

I held the baby close and slowly walked back to my room and sat right in the tub. I just laid in it and relaxed. Krzys asked what the baby was, and I said it was a girl.

He said, “But you didn’t check.” I told him I just knew. I leaned her forward and sure enough, the goods of a girl. I was feeling the contractions working on my placenta. The tub slowly filled with the after birth.

Anzley was amazed at the little baby I was holding. She stroked her little head and gave her kisses. We then realized we totally forgot to record it or even take a picture! I’m disappointed at that, but it all just went so fast. I was in shock at just how quickly it all went. Estimating from the time I woke up initially it was five or five and a half hours of labor and my baby girl was born. I never pushed. No one was there telling me what to do, touching me, invading my privacy. My doula was the perfect amount of support; never once pulling me from my focus. She arrived exactly when I needed her support.

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I delivered the placenta with the baby in my arms after a few trying pushes over about 50 minutes. Even that was amazing. I got to hold it and inspect this wonderful organ that my body created to keep my baby girl alive and growing.

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After I delivered the placenta I had to use the restroom. I handed the baby and placenta (still attached) to Daddy, and went to the bathroom. I showered, and then came back to my bed to snuggle with my family. After some time relaxing together, about 3 hours, we saw the umbilical cord was completely empty and starting to flatten a little bit. So we decided the placenta and baby were ready to be separated.

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Mom, Dad and sister each got a candle, and we burned her cord for separation. It was nice; but did take a long time. Krzys took the placenta and made me a raw placenta smoothie which was actually pretty delicious.

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That night, I called a midwife friend to come and check on the baby and me. I was pretty shocked that even without pushing, and the baby practically flying out of me in two contractions, I didn’t even tear in the slightest.

Krzys kept telling me how awed he was by me, how amazed and glad he was that I got to have the birth I wanted. That went on for a couple of days; he was so supportive. I was pretty amazed myself. I had planned to not push; I wanted to let my body do as much of the work as possible before I got involved. I told Krzys several times that I didn’t want to push until I felt the absolute need to. And what do you know, that plan not only worked but surpassed my expectations. The whole birth did! The whole pregnancy did!! I am so amazed at how awesome life is. We are amazing creatures with amazing abilities. And now I have a beautiful family of four thanks to that amazement.

Kenzley Rogowski was born May 13, 2014 at 7:37 am, weighing 7 lbs, 11 oz and was 19-1/2 inches long.

Margot’s Water Birth Story – Part I

Margot’s Water Birth Story – Part I

It feels appropriate to say that my daughter Margot’s birth story started two days before she was born. It was early February 2013, and I was officially 40 weeks + 1 day overdue, lying on the table in a doctor’s office, with my midwife telling me that no, sorry, the baby hasn’t dropped yet, so you’re still only 2cms dilated, with no likely sign of anything getting moving anytime soon. I left that room some time later feeling deflated, as you can imagine, and positive that I’d be the first woman in the world to remain pregnant forever. I rounded up all my closest girlfriends that evening to sit around a table at a café, gorging on cheesecake while they empathized to their finest abilities. It was an evening of complaining, wistful thinking, and commiserating. That night, I went to bed with a tummy full of cake, a belly full of baby, and an acceptance that I’d just have to hang on a little bit longer – albeit a weak acceptance it was.

The next morning was a Saturday, and after sleeping in (as much as I could at that point, anyhow – sleep wasn’t my finest skill since I was rolling around and getting up to pee in the night like it was my full-time job), I waddled to the bathroom only to realize – okay wait – is that my mucus plug?? I had been experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions for months leading up to this, and that morning I was feeling them with relatively stronger intensity, but suffice it to say they never once had me batting an eye; I could feel my belly tightening and cramping up every so often, but the contractions were painless. So when I saw blood that morning, I suddenly found myself enlightened at the prospect that maybe I’d end up meeting my baby after all…! Not that day, I reckoned, and not the next, but just maybe the one after that. I got myself up and ready for the day and had a better outlook on things.

The day went on, and more of my plug passed. And in hand with that came these stronger contractions. They still weren’t anything particularly noteworthy, and if anything I actually found them kind of fantastic because a) it meant my body was gearing up to birth this babe of mine, and b) would you believe me if I told you I actually had this twisted, “bring it on” mentality with regard to labor? I actually dared it to come at me because I wanted to take it on and see just where my limits laid.

The day passed without anomaly, and that evening we had plans for our friends to meet us at our place, and we’d walk to one of our favorite restaurants for dinner. The streets were laid thick with snow thanks to a recent blizzard, so the roads were quiet and the streetlights lit our path as we walked a mile toward pizza and hot chocolate. My contractions at that point had increased in strength, and although I didn’t think much of it, every handful of minutes I’d have to yell out to everyone to just hang on a sec… “Just give me a minute to ride this out…” before the cramping would pass, my body would relax, and I could walk at a reasonable pace again. We ate our dinner, talked, laughed, and had a great time. It wasn’t until we were in line at a coffee shop picking up our hot chocolates for the walk home that the thought crossed my mind, “I think I might be in labor.” I said it out loud to my husband, Daryl, at which point my heart swiftly exited my body via my mouth (or maybe my butt), and I got weak in the knees out of nervousness. There was something about saying it out loud – like, did I just say that? Am I really in labor? No. I can’t be. I suddenly barely thought of myself as pregnant – I was the girl whose friends got pregnant while I tried fruitlessly, peeing on negative test after negative test. People around me go into labor; people on TV do, too. But not me. I don’t go into labor.

We walked a mile back to our house, and in my total denial, we made plans to meet these same friends for breakfast the next morning at 10 o’clock. “See you in the morning!” we said, and we climbed the stairs up to our second-floor duplex. Once we got up there, though, it occurred to me that I might want to start timing my contractions. So I opened up the app on my phone, and while we watched TV, I started cluing into the fact that my contractions were happening every four or five minutes. A couple hours went by, then we decided we should get some sleep in case things started to really gear up. We packed a hospital bag just in case, and got ready for bed.

I think I lasted about 10 minutes, though, before realizing there was no way on God’s green earth I was going to be able to sleep. These contractions were surely nowhere near what they’d end up being, but they meant business nonetheless. I crept out of bed so Daryl could sleep, and I headed back to the living room to labor on my balance ball until I couldn’t take it anymore. About three hours went by, and at that point it was 1:30am and my contractions were closer to three minutes apart – four at most. I called the hospital to ask for some advice since my water hadn’t broken and I wasn’t in the throes of pain, but I was certain I was in labor – and sure enough, they said come on in. So I woke Daryl up, told him it was time, and I’m pretty sure he was up, dressed and with his shoes on before he was even quite awake yet.

We made a wholly uncomfortable drive to the hospital, and checked in at the ER, where we were escorted up to triage in the birth center. This was where we met the on-call midwife – the woman who’d end up overseeing the majority of my labor & delivery, save for the final two hours when a shift change happened. She was a surly woman with a curt demeanor who examined my belly, told me that this baby of mine was going to be massive, and said that since I was still only at 2cms (What?? Seriously?), “these contractions you’re feeling are nothing. Honey, they’re gonna get so much worse,” she said. THANKS. Then in between contractions I daydreamed about clocking her in the face.

Eventually we were brought to our birthing room, where a really kind nurse said to us, “Here we are! Here’s the room in which you’re going to have your baby!” And I think Daryl & I both gulped in unison. If my heart hadn’t fallen out of my butt by that point, it did just then. The nurse got us all set up, put me on a bed, and advised us to get some sleep before things really got going. Well with all due respect, I thought, I came here because I can’t sleep through this. If it’s not happening in my own bed, it’s sure as hell not happening here in the hospital. But she left us alone in a dimly lit room, and told us to buzz her if we needed anything.

Now Daryl remembers this as the time in which he laid on a makeshift chair-bed, in the corner of our hospital room, waiting for me to fall silent – knowing that he wouldn’t be able to sleep through my laboring moans – he’d be able to sleep as soon as he heard me relax and drift off. Except that as he recalls it, it was only about 30 seconds of him thinking that okay – this was it! We could get some sleep! – before he heard me scream out, “OH, SICK! EW!”

“What?! What’s going on?” He answered.

“My water broke! Ew. Ew. Ew.” I had been lying there on the bed, trying unsuccessfully to relax and fall asleep, when I felt what I can only describe as a water balloon pop between my legs. It was quick, it was painless, and it was warm and disgusting. It caught me entirely off guard. So we called the nurse in, and from this point onward I can’t recount the details with much accuracy. My plan all along was for a water birth, but they wouldn’t let me in the tub before I reached 5 cms. I don’t know how far along I was at that point, but I wasn’t there yet – because I instead labored in the tub in the bathroom. From my fuzzy memory, I recall that things geared up immensely from this point on. I remember drifting in and out of a focused consciousness, moaning loudly, and being offered intermittent sips of water and bites of banana. I remained motionless and I moved this way and that, gripping the shower handles with the strength of the Gods. It’s amazing I didn’t wrench them out of the wall.

All I remember thinking as I endured each contraction with deep, labored breathing and knuckle-busting hand-holding was that I was going to explode if somebody didn’t check me and tell me I was 5cms. And once I was, once I moved from the bathtub into the birthing tub, that I wasn’t going to last much longer if somebody didn’t check me and tell me the baby was crowning. I labored in the birthing tub for what I can only tell you felt like days – weeks, even. Time stopped and swallowed me up. I weathered each contraction on my knees, with my arms draped over the edge of the tub and my face rested on the edge. I did it until my bottom half fell asleep, then was prompted to change positions to regain blood flow. Daryl held my hand, blew on my face, rubbed my back, and my midwife (post-shift-change – a veritable saint of a woman) coached me along with words of support, and poured water down my weary spine. The pain I felt was immense; the contractions so strong I’m not sure I didn’t spend most of them hanging from the ceiling. If I didn’t know up to that point what kind of laborer I was, I knew now I was a fierce and vocal one. Each inhale was swift, and each exhale was a deep and labored moan. Either that or an accidental YELL.

Eventually, after what had to have been months and years of contractions and breathing, I felt my body start to push. It was beyond my control, and so “this is it!” is what I thought. Well – sans exclamation point, I’m sure, because I was so exhausted there’s no way my brain had any punctuation to offer. So I pushed, and I pushed, and I pushed. With all my might. “ANYTHING??” I remember thinking. “IS SHE CROWNING?” I’d reach my hand down to check – I so badly wanted to feel my baby making her way out – but nothing. I pushed and pushed for what legitimately felt like hours, only to be told in retrospect that it was about half an hour altogether. Everything culminated when my midwife said, “Okay Sandy, you’re probably feeling what we call, ‘the ring of fire’. It’s your baby making her way through your cervix, and it’s gonna burn.” Oh I felt it, alright. I think I still feel it.

Finally – FINALLY – I got word that my baby was on her way out! “Push, Sandy!” they said, and told me to push again. I did, and on one of the final contractions, I managed to get her head halfway out; but then the contraction ended, and my midwife got worried. “Okay,” I was told, “your contraction has passed, but we need you to push this baby out anyhow. Push as hard as you can.” So I did, and in a split second I felt her rush out of my body. Just like that, it was over. There was this 7lb, 14oz daughter of mine in the water, and I lifted her out and placed her on my chest. I don’t even think I cried – I just stared at her in wonder, half panting, half laughing. I did it; I birthed my baby girl in the water, unmedicated. Words can’t even come close to describing how I felt. I was over the moon.

A few minutes passed, and Daryl cut the cord, and my wee girl and I were moved out of the tub and onto a bed so that I could deliver the placenta. (Oh – can I get an amen over how birthing a human being didn’t even hold a torch to the pain of delivering a placenta?) Then shortly after this, I remember being told that I’d suffered a severe tear, and a surgical team was coming in to stitch me back up. The fact that I was improperly repaired over the course of the following 90 minutes is a story all on its own, but suffice it to say I lived those minutes somewhere between the precipice of hell and snug in the heart of bliss while I nursed my brand new baby girl. Daryl held my hand all the while, and we marveled at what love we were experiencing for the very first time.

There, lying on my chest, laid this wiggly baby girl that caused my heart to explode into a thousand pieces; she in her tiny glory turned me into a mother and forever changed the way I look at the world.

M&S bwf

Part 2 here.

Originally published on sandsmama.com

Natural Hospital Birth {Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome}

Natural Hospital Birth {Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome}

This is the birth story of my son Sawyer Emerson Karli.

It is a story about standing up for myself, even when, especially when, things don’t go exactly as planned.  My husband and I had talked about wanting to have children early in our relationship.  It was something we both really wanted and I wasn’t sure with my Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome how long it would take or hard it would be for me to conceive.  Because of this, 3 months before our wedding I began seeing an amazing acupuncturist to help even out my hormones and to regulate my cycles.  Two months after our wedding, on Thanksgiving morning, I woke my husband up at 6:00 A.M. shouting “Is that two lines?!”. It was a day with much to be thankful for.

I made an appointment to see my O.B.  It was still very early so he said we had missed seeing the heartbeat by a few days and that we would need to come back in a week or so.  They got all my info and the nurse gave me a lengthy discussion on the importance of getting a flu shot.  I politely declined (as the baby didn’t even have a heartbeat yet and I was trying to keep things as natural as possible).

At the next appointment, I was asked all the same questions as the week before.  The only thing they remembered about me was my adamant refusal of the flu shot which I heard them discussing while I was in the restroom by the nurses station.  I discussed my interest in a natural birth with no episiotomy with my doctor.  He told me we would see how things go.  This began my search for a midwife.

Illysa was the first midwife I met with, but I knew she was the one.  She was the only midwife in her practice and having a personal experience and knowing who was going to be delivering my baby was important to me.  I met with several other midwives, but none matched her calming, yet passionate spirit, so she took me on and I felt very good about choosing to have a home birth.

At my 23-week appointment things were feeling a little off, so I had her check me.  We were both shocked to find I was already 50% effaced.  We decided to keep a close eye on things and see what happened.  Things stayed the same for weeks with no further progression, though we did observe the baby was getting pretty comfy in the sunny side up posterior position.  At my 33-week check I was 70% effaced and 1 cm dilated.  This is where things started to get a bit tricky.

Illysa had planned birthing classes and a vacation to France around several clients due dates.  I was beginning to be fearful that not only would I not make the 36-week minimum for a homebirth, but I wouldn’t have my midwife there either.  I was left in the hands of her support midwife while she was away, and with an intense desire to nest (the lady at the Container Store called it before I did), I started getting things ready around the house for the birth of my son.

At 35 weeks on Sunday June 23, 2013 I began having contractions.  I was timing them at about 20 minutes apart. My mother, who was in town for the weekend and who had planned to go back home, was very glad she had decided to stay an extra day. Around 2:00 A.M. I had her call the midwife.  She checked me and said I was 2 cm dilated and that babies head was very low (-2 station). She said due to baby being only 35 weeks and 1 day, it was time to go to the hospital.

Once we got there, things began to slow down.  The first doctor to check me put me at 2 cm dilated and -1 station with contractions 5 minutes apart (I have a high pain tolerance so I wasn’t feeling every contraction at this point). I fought to refuse an IV and antibiotics (my strep b test was scheduled for the next week).  We compromised on no antibiotic, intermittent monitoring of the baby, and a hep lock in case “I started bleeding out and my veins began collapsing”.  Yikes.  This wasn’t the birth I was hoping for.  Where was my midwife’s calming spirit?  Where was the birthing tub?  My biggest fears were coming true.

I was an educated first time mom who was committed to having a natural birth.  I’m 28 years old; I had eaten right and exercised.  Why was this happening?  I felt a bit of a panic so I decided to call my Mayan massage therapist Michelle who had been a midwife for many years.  She normally doesn’t come to births anymore, but we had developed a close relationship during my pregnancy so she agreed to meet me up at the hospital.  Once Michelle arrived I felt this strong sense of calmness wash over me.  As my water had not broken and I was only 2 cm dilated, all of the sudden it occurred to me that I could go home, that I didn’t have to stay!  The doctor agreed to let me go home on the condition that I would return when my water broke. I decided to do the strep B test at the hospital (just in case we had to come back) and I returned home.

When I got home, I set the intention that baby boy was staying in until Friday when my midwife would be back and I could have the homebirth I had planned since baby would be 36 weeks.  I managed to hold him in for another two days before my contractions started getting the best of me.  We arrived back at the hospital on early Wednesday morning.  I had stalled out at 6 cm and had not progressed for many hours.  Once I got checked in, the doctor came in, looked me over for 5 seconds and stated that I wouldn’t like his recommendation but that I had “been in labor for too long… and needed to be started on Pitocin and an epidural”.

Michelle and the midwife asked if we could have some time for me to adjust to being in a new environment to see if we could get things going.  He stated that we were “wasting time” and walked out of the room for the next two hours.  I requested another doctor at this point, but the nurses told me it was up to the doctor whether he wanted to pass my birth on.  I learned later they work off commission per birth so this doctor stayed on 45 minutes past his shift, but was determined to make my birth go as quickly as possible.

When the doctor came back in we had him break my water.  Within minutes the contractions got almost unbearable.  I believe this is when baby decided it was time to abandon the posterior position for one better suited to pushing.  Transition ensued and I began saying that there was no way I could possibly do this any longer.  The room got very quiet and I felt like I had failed in everything I was trying to accomplish with natural birth.

The nurse said it would take 3 more contractions to get the epidural ready. Would I like her to check me one more time?  I said yes and was ecstatic to learn I had progressed to an 8.  At that point, I knew I could have the drug free birth that I had worked so hard for.  The nurses called the doctor back in as my body was beginning to push on its own.  I was at a 9 with a cervical lip that wouldn’t budge.  The nurses held it for several contractions and it was finally time to push.

The doctor came in obviously mad that I had proved him wrong about being able to accomplish natural childbirth.  I had told him several times that I did not want an episiotomy, but he did not care.  Without my consent and without giving me any chance to push to see how things could go, he cut me 3 separate times.  Before the third cut, as I was saying once again that I did not want to be cut, he threatened me saying that since my son was premature he could get brain damage as a result of me pushing him out.  Since my birthing classes were scheduled to begin one week from when I was actually giving birth, I had no training on what to do.  I had read books on what would happen, but I didn’t know how to actually push with the contractions.

The doctor told me my pushing was “ineffective” and that my baby had “gone back up inside of me”.  It wasn’t until the midwife got between the doctor and me and said that “no woman is born knowing how to do this” and gave me some instruction that I was able to effectively start pushing.  I knew I had to get my son out as soon as possible as I was afraid of what the doctor might do to him.  I knew he would resort to vacuum assisted birth or a c-section to prove he was the one in charge.  So with 30 minutes of intense pushing (some pushes without any contractions to help guide him out), my son was born at 7:46 am on Wednesday weighing 4 pounds 11 oz tiny, but perfectly healthy.

He spent no time in the N.I.C.U. and latched on as soon as they brought him over to me which I am convinced is because I had him naturally.  The lactation consultant was amazed at his alertness and ability to feed.

I have filed complaints against the doctor to the hospital and medical board who are both conducting investigations.  Though I didn’t get the perfect peaceful birth that I had envisioned, I do have an amazing little boy who I gave birth naturally to.  I have peace knowing that I stood up for myself and didn’t let the doctor get away with how he treated me.  This is my birth story of how I birthed, not without, but in spite of fear.

Sawyer1

An Inspiring Natural {Hospital} Birth

An Inspiring Natural {Hospital} Birth

A Birth Story. Warning: It May Take You Longer To Read This Than It Did For Me To Give Birth

These are the facts you should know about me: I have had four children.  My first birth, a daughter, happened a month after my seventeenth birthday.  It was a hospital birth and while not a bad experience, not a great one either.  I gave my daughter up for adoption, and vowed to do things differently in the future.  My next daughter was born nine years later, followed by my son two years after that.  Both were un-medicated hospital births, with their own highs and lows.  I wasn’t totally satisfied with my birthing experiences, but at that point, I thought we were done having children.

Six years after my third birth, I unexpectedly became pregnant.  I was already morbidly obese – during pregnancies #2 and #3 I weighed 250 pounds; now I weighed 300.  After researching and talking to the local natural birthing community, I chose a midwifery group within a hospital.  The midwives made it clear from the start that if I were to have any complications; they would have to turn my care over to the OBs.  However, they were also my biggest cheerleaders, encouraging me at every appointment to keep up the good work in maintaining my health.

I did not gain any weight before delivering, and against the odds, I maintained a healthy pregnancy in all respects.  Despite my weight, several years between my last pregnancy and this one, and being extremely out of shape, I had a beautiful, un-medicated natural childbirth.  It was the most amazing experience of my life, and I hope to inspire other moms who may be facing similar circumstances.  Here is my story…

Five days before my due date, I woke up at 2:20 am, uncomfortable because I was sleeping on my stomach. I figured since I was awake, I should go ahead and hit the bathroom. As I was getting out of bed, liquid ran down my legs – just a little, not enough for me to know for sure that my water broke, but definitely enough for it to be a consideration.  All three of my previous labors started with my water breaking; contractions came later. I’m just contrary like that, I guess.  However, it stopped when I stood up, so I figured my bladder was just a little too full. Yes, pregnant women can and often do pee on themselves. It’s one of those awesome little secrets that no one tells you ahead of time.

After going to the bathroom, I had a contraction. It felt different from the ones I’d had previously – this was deep inside, not painful but with the potential to become so. I knew that even with this type of contraction, things could still peter out, but it felt real. I immediately got my hopes up that today might be The Day.

I laid back down and watched the clock. Sleep was out of the question – not from pain, but because I was too excited. Still, I wanted to rest and see if the contractions would keep coming. They did, every 5 minutes like clockwork. Nothing I couldn’t breathe through; I didn’t even have to change positions. At 3:00 am, I woke up my husband, Nathan, and let him know that it was looking more and more like I was in real labor. Then I called Lynn, our doula. When I told her I’d been having contractions for 40 minutes, she freaked out a bit: “You waited this long to call me?!” My previous two labors were very short – 4 hours and 2 ½ hours. I knew I should have called her right away, but I was feeling hesitant; I wanted it to be the real deal before I called her in the middle of the night. Lynn lived about 40 minutes away, so she said she would drive to our area and just hang out nearby; I could call her again when I needed her and she’d be right there. Let me tell you people, that is an awesome doula.

I told Nathan to get some rest. Yes, that’s right, I woke him up just to tell him to go back to sleep. I rock. Since sleep wasn’t going to happen for me, I sat on my birth ball and played on the laptop at the kitchen table. When that got old, I tried to get more comfortable in my recliner to watch some TV. I don’t know if it was the position or just coincidence, but the very first contraction I had in the recliner took my breath away. All of the sudden I was not happy and did not want to be alone any more. It was 4:45 am; I woke Nathan up (yes, the rat bastard had actually gone back to bed) and called Lynn again. This was it, people. The real deal. Baby was on the way!

Lynn arrived in about 2 minutes flat. For the next hour or so, I was focusing through each contraction; I spent most of them on my knees leaning on my birth ball. I really liked this position, which did not come as a big surprise. My previous labors were spent almost entirely on my hands and knees; the birth ball just made the position easier on my arms. Lynn did this thing called hip squeezes that gave me amazing pain relief. Even in the middle of contractions, I found that amusing, since Nathan had tried to do hip squeezes with me during practice sessions and it hurt every time. Just goes to show that what seems to work during practice and what really works during labor can be vastly different.

Nathan held my hands and arms and helped me relax through the pain. That was an unexpected, and very nice, change. My previous labors, he was my only support person and he did it mostly from behind me, encircling my body with his arms or giving counter-pressure on my back. With no one else there, that was where I needed him most. This time, he was free to support me in a different way, to connect with me face-to-face, and it was amazing.

A little before six am, I realized that Kayleigh and James (our 8 year old daughter and 6 year old son) would have to get up for school soon, and it hit me that I did not want to labor in front of them. Mild panic set in, since I didn’t need or want to go to the hospital yet, but it wasn’t practical to have our babysitter take the kids out of the house. On school mornings, they need an hour to get ready and get out the door. Our sitter’s house was too far away to be an option. If I had considered it beforehand, I probably would have said to hell with it and allowed them to skip school for the day. However, I hadn’t given it a bit of thought. This was my first labor with school-age kids around and it just wasn’t something I’d considered ahead of time. Instead, without a plan in place, I was stubbornly fixated on getting them to school that day.

What to do, what to do. I really, really wanted to labor as long as possible at home. My previous in-hospital laboring experiences weren’t stellar. In those instances my water had already broke, so my doctors were seriously focused on moving things right along. I wasn’t sure my water had broken that morning (I wasn’t noticing any leakage that would have convinced me otherwise), but I was still hesitant about going to the hospital this early on. It was less than 4 hours since labor started, and just barely over an hour since what I thought of as “active labor” (i.e., painful contractions) had started. Lynn, God bless her, reminded me that the midwives at my hospital wouldn’t push me to get through labor or put me on a clock. There was also the possibility that if I checked in and was found to be not far enough along, we could leave and go walk in the park near the hospital. Coupling that with the fact that I didn’t want to be in the car when labor was really bad, I decided to head out.

The twenty-five minute car ride wasn’t too bad. I had four or five contractions on the way, but I was kneeling on the passenger seat with my arms wrapped around the back (again with the hands-and-knees thing). I highly recommend this position for the drive to the hospital.

Even though we were pre-registered, it took a long while to get checked in.  I had a few more contractions while getting through the paperwork, but things had kind of slowed down. Apparently I wasn’t acting like I was in much pain, because receptionist never asked about my contractions, length of, time apart, or otherwise. She did not even admit me as being in active labor; I think she put me down as needing an exam or something. After we finally got past the front desk and were walking down the hall toward my room, the nurse noticed that we were carrying a crap-load of laboring stuff – birth ball, suitcase, cooler, etc. She asked me if I was in labor and was mightily surprised when she heard that my contractions had been 5 minutes apart for hours. There was a scramble to find out if my room could be changed, so that I’d get the awesome, “mid-wife patient” corner room, with lots of space and a shower. The nurse made it happen and we trekked to Room 14. Sweet.

Out of the four possible midwives in the practice, one of my favorites was on duty – yay! Kathryn was the first midwife I had met at the beginning of my pregnancy. She made me feel comfortable at that initial appointment, and meeting her convinced me that this particular hospital was the right hospital to be in. So maybe it was fate, destiny, kismet that she was my midwife for delivery. Or maybe it was the midwife on-call schedule. Who knows.

My nurses were Stacie and Shakia. Lynn knew Stacie from previous births, so there was an instant feel of camaraderie in the room. Or maybe I imagined that. Either way, it was nice. They needed to draw blood and asked if they could place a hep lock at the same time, to which I replied that it was fine as long as it didn’t hurt. During my first labor, I swear the hep lock hurt more than contractions. It made a big enough impression on me that “Remove hep lock if requested” was on my birth plan. Stacie tried to place it in the back of my hand and something went wrong; it hurt insanely bad right away. She finished drawing my blood and took the needle out – no hep lock for me. My hand was immediately bruised and continued to hurt for the next couple of days.

Our midwife Kathryn arrived at around 8:00 and asked about checking me to see how dilated I was. I was a little iffy about this. Check that – I was a lot iffy about this. I knew I had come to the hospital early and really did not want to hear that I was only 1-2 centimeters. Kathryn reassured me that I did not have to get checked if I didn’t want to, but she would like to know where we stood. Of course, there was always the option that she could check me but not tell me where I was at. Yeah, right. Like that was going to happen. Seriously, has any pregnant woman ever agreed to that?

I waffled about it for a bit and then gave in and told her she could check me. I wasn’t too happy with my decision, to be perfectly honest. However, the Labor Goddess smiled upon me – I was 4-5 centimeters, stretchy, and 100% effaced. Yay! And the best part was I didn’t have another internal check until I was pushing. I love midwives.

It was about 9:15 when I found I could no longer deny my urgent need to pee. To those of you who haven’t gone through labor, or haven’t labored drug-free, you may not understand why I really, really did not want to go sit on the toilet. Let’s just say that the porcelain throne is the perfect instrument for encouraging a baby to move down the birth canal, causing major contractions. And since I personally feel that having to sit through a contraction without any options for changing position is pretty much torture equivalent to being water boarded, I was desperate to avoid putting myself there. Unfortunately, my bladder was not cooperating, so I headed in with a plan to pee as fast as possible. I was aiming for that gold medal pee, the mystical one that would allow me to finish my business between contractions. I almost, almost, made it – but alas, it was not to be. Luckily I just had one contraction while in there, because it was bad. The noises I was making must have gotten my husband’s attention, as he was almost instantly at the door asking if I was okay. I was not okay. Contractions on the toilet are not my friend. Still, I was coherent enough to notice that I lost my mucus plug. And yes, it was ahem as ~lovely~ as it sounds. It was the first time I’d ever experienced that, so it made quite the impression on me. I was very, very glad to get out of there.

Thanks to my husband’s Zune, Lynn’s awesome little travel speaker, and my 200+ playlist, we kept the party going to a very eclectic mix of music – eighties hair bands, pop, nineties grunge, current rock, oldies, etc. At one point, Stacie made the comment that it was nice to hear something that “wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns for once!” That made me laugh. Apparently us hippy, granola birther types in the midwife room are notorious for playing soothing, Zen trancy-type stuff. Yeah, not so much with me.

I found myself apologizing for a couple of my song choices that made prominent use of the f-bomb (“Shut the F#!k Up” by Cake is an excellent labor song, by the way). Because my birth team was awesome, everyone laughed it off. Music was another thing that had been overlooked in my previous labors. It was an important part of this one, and really kept my mood light. There’s nothing like singing along to your favorite tunes in-between contractions.

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Labor continued to move right along. Looking back, I find myself proud that I was open to suggestions; when Lynn would say, “Do you want to try XYZ?” I’d respond, “Okaaaaay … ” I wasn’t jumping for joy at any of her ideas, but I was willing to try them. My previous labors were so fast and so chaotic that I really didn’t have time to do anything but try to breathe between contractions before whoops! There’s my baby! This time, I labored in several different positions, tried things like the heat packs, counter pressure, etc. I drank water and juice even though I didn’t want to. I walked and moved even though I was comfortable just sitting on the birth ball. I wanted to keep labor progressing, so I listened to the wisdom of those around me and it was a lovely thing.

I started to feel sick at about 9:45. I was familiar with the process of puking while in labor. It’s not the most awesome thing ever, let me tell you. It’s also one of the signs that you’re in transition, which I did not remember in the moment. All I knew was that I really, really did not want to throw up. I mean honestly, you’re just adding insult to injury at that point. Luckily, my body cooperated this time around and I got to keep my breakfast in my stomach. It was then that I asked Kathryn if I could get into the tub. Sadly, my hospital did not have a labor and delivery tub; it was for labor only, and then you have to get out to give birth. In my dream world I would have had a water birth, but since that wasn’t an option I at least wanted to spend some time in the dang thing.

As Stacie and Shakia went to fill the labor tub, transition hit in full force. Holy hell, it was rough. Really, really rough – harder than any of my previous labors. I was having quadruple and quintuple contractions; they just went on and on and on for what felt like forever. I couldn’t move, couldn’t change positions, couldn’t find relief. Nathan and Lynn tried different things to help and had to just go by how my moans sounded, as I wasn’t coherent. In my mind, the pain was obliterating everything but my need to be in in the water, the consuming feeling that everything would be okay if I could just get in the water.

What I didn’t know was that the tub should have been ready pretty quickly, but whomever turned it on never came back in the room to tell Kathryn to move me. So while I waited (and waited, and waited), it almost overflowed. Then they had to drain quite a bit of water out, which with a tub that big takes time in and of itself. All in all, it was thirty hellish minutes of transition before we got word that I could get in. It took a few more minutes before I could actually move. Luckily the tub room was literally around the corner and once I got up, I didn’t have another contraction until I was in the water.

Looking back, I am convinced that my labor would have been picture perfect if I could have gone through transition in the tub. Because it turns out that my instinct was right – I loved being in the water. I don’t have words for how much I loved it. The tub was pure magic.

I’ve read a lot of birth stories in which the mom says getting in the water relieved most or all of her pain. I’ll be the first to say that was not the case for me. However, being in the water meant I didn’t have to worry about my body any more. I didn’t have to find the perfect position to help me get through contractions, I didn’t have to worry about not tensing my muscles while still maintaining that perfect position. I could just relax and float. Float and relax. It was so freeing that I was able to focus exclusively on each contraction, and getting through them was infinitely easier.

We put our candles (electric – they have really nice ones these days!) to good use, since the tub room was windowless. Lynn set up two large ones and several small ones all around the tub, and we kept the fluorescent light off. That was another one of those small yet important details … lighting. Sunlight I love. Candlelight I love. Fluorescent lights, not so much. Hooray for bringing a suitcase full of crap to the hospital!

I’ll tell you a secret … I was pretty damn determined to screw the rules and have a water birth. Other women have done so, and their baby’s footprints are inked on the wall above the tub. Isn’t that cute? Pretty much if you stay quiet and get to a certain point of the pushing stage while in the tub, the midwives aren’t going to make you stop, get out, and go back to your room. Instead you can just plow ahead and voila … water birth. I was totally down with that scenario – and yes, I’ll admit it, I wanted to see my baby boy’s little toes on that wall.

Unfortunately, my plan was shot to hell by a faulty Doppler. Back in the room, the Doppler worked just fine, but Kathryn had to switch to using a waterproof one in the tub and it wasn’t working. She couldn’t find the baby’s heartbeat. For 30 minutes she moved the Doppler around, trying to find a spot on my belly from which she could pick up the heartbeat while being careful not to disturb me. I was vaguely aware that something was going on because she kept moving the probe, but I refused to focus on anything but my contractions. Kathryn never said anything, just kept trying to find that sweet little drum beat. The stress level of my birth team continued to slowly rise with each silent minute while I stayed oblivious.

I’d been in the tub for close to half an hour when it came time to push. I put my plan into motion and pushed for a few contractions without bothering to tell anyone what I was doing. In my head, I was sure they all knew I was pushing because my vocalizations completely changed. No one said anything, though, and I forged ahead. Then for no apparent reason, while resting between the third or fourth push, I quite suddenly and fully became aware of what the problem was that had Kathryn so absorbed. No heartbeat. The unrelenting movement of the Doppler without a single result. This was not a good thing. I immediately announced I needed to push, knowing that she would make me get out of the tub and hoping that doing so would somehow magically make everything okay.

(I later learned that at the time, Kathryn thought the new Doppler wasn’t working because I had too much “adipose tissue”, which is medical-speak for “lots of fat”. Being obese means that the extra layers of fat get in the way of the Doppler, and sometimes it doesn’t work with us bigger women. This is why she let me stay in the tub for 30 minutes – she wasn’t convinced there was truly a problem with the baby. In reality, the farking thing was actually broken.)

The reality of what I’d done – announced that I needed to push, effectively eighty-sixing my water birth – hit me when Kathryn told me we needed to go back to my room. I immediately retreated, responding, “Never mind, I don’t have to push! I’m fine, I’ll just stay here. Not pushing. Not moving.” The idea of not only getting out of the water, but also having to walk back to my room, completely overwhelmed me. I was fully convinced that I couldn’t even stand up in the tub let alone get out of it. Thank God for Nathan and Lynn. While I was busy feeling positive that I couldn’t move, they somehow they got me up, out, and back in my room. I was so caught up in my own head that I don’t even know how they did it. One minute I felt like there was no way in hell it was going to happen, the next I was out of the tub, down the hallway, and on my bed. There’s no way on God’s green earth I could have done that on my own.

We left the tub room at about 10:45. I’m not sure how long it took me to actually get to the bed; it didn’t feel long but I’m a little blurry on that whole trip. A contraction hit me just as I was climbing onto the bed, so I reassumed my beloved hands-and-knees position. Afterward, I lay on my left side, resting while Kathryn checked me. You could not have paid me a million dollars to lay flat on my back at that point. She found the baby’s heartbeat right away, alleviating a ton of stress. We all cheered to find out I was 10 centimeters and +1 station. I was officially cleared to push.

By the way, have you noticed that I haven’t talked about my water breaking? At that final check, Kathryn announced there were no membranes. That meant my bag of waters was completely gone. At some point during the day it snuck out unnoticed – ninja water! My best guess is that it broke while I was in the tub, probably while I was sneak-pushing.

Because I was already on my left side, I pushed that way for about 10 minutes. It wasn’t a super effective position, but it gave me a chance to rest between pushes. Then Kathryn suggested using the birth stool. I had never used one before, but it’s exactly what it sounds like: a stool with a cut-out for the baby to emerge through. Using one means you’re almost in a squat position, but supported by the stool instead having to rely on your own strength. It was awesome, and totally made pushing much more efficient (yay gravity!). The stool was placed next to the bed, so I could sit on it and lean against the mattress. Nathan sat on the bed behind me, hands on my shoulders, and in-between contractions I leaned my head on his chest. I pushed like this for another 10 minutes and that was all it took.

At our request, Lynn took a video of the birth. It’s the only reason I have details for this next part of the story. I am not a silent birther, by any means, but I only truly screamed twice. The first time was when my baby boy’s head was crowning. At that moment, my body decided to slow things down and paused with his head right there. For almost a full minute, nothing happened; I just trembled and breathed and made pain noises while my body took stock. Then in one push, his head came out. Again I paused, while Kathryn checked to make sure the cord was not around his neck. Having verified that everything was fine, she asked me if I was ready to push again. I responded with a tremulous, “No,” but in less than 10 seconds I was doing that very thing. My second round of screaming hit when his shoulders came out. That shit hurts, y’all. Just plain hurts. But half a second later, I was holding him in my arms, pain and screams forgotten.

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My first words to my baby were, “Breathe, breathe! Breathe honey, breathe!” followed by, “You are a boy!” Awesome. Lynn said, “Happy Birthday!” and Kathryn said, “Welcome.” Me, I’m bossing him around and checking his genitals.

He did seem very blue to me, but Kathryn reassured me he was fine. We sat there, with our baby in my arms and Nathan holding us both, while they cleaned him up with warm towels. I was naked, so we were skin-to-skin, heartbeat-to-heartbeat, in the ultimate new-baby moment. (You like how I slipped that naked detail in there? You’re welcome.) When he was all clean and shiny, I stood up and scooted backward into the bed.

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From there, I continued to hold him and marvel at his beautiful face while my body went about the business of delivering the placenta. It didn’t take too long before that was done. I was given an intramuscular shot of Pitocin to help stop the bleeding, which is pretty standard these days. Nonetheless, Kathryn cleared it with me first, because she’s the bomb. I was fine with it – my baby was safely delivered, so whatever they needed to do to get my body back in shape was okay with me.

When the placenta stopped pulsating, Nathan cut the cord. He’s a pro at it now, with three under his belt. I had a very small tear that ended up needing one stitch. By the time that happened, I was on the phone with my mom and dad, telling them they had a new grandchild. That was a little awkward: “Hi Mom, hi Dad! You have a new grandson! He’s adorable, and … OW. Ow ow ow. Okay then, sorry about that, the midwife was just stitching me up. Anyway …”

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I held our baby boy for almost two hours before the nurses took him to be weighed and measured. Yes, I held him while delivering the placenta, held him while Nathan cut the cord, held him while making phone calls and being stitched up. Just held him, skin-to-skin, reveling in him. There is nothing in this world more miraculous than the face of a new born baby.

Also, it’s pretty fun to call your family and tell them you had your baby, but no, you don’t know how much he weighs, or how long he is, or even what his name is. That was a big source of amusement for us post-birth. We have a large family. Lots of phone calls.

For the record, Grayson Matthew was born May 23rd, 2012, at 11:20 am. He weighed 7 pounds, 8 ounces, and was 20 inches long. He came home the next day and instantly added his big sister and brother, along with the family dog, to his fan club. He continues to try to recruit the cat, who has resisted all efforts to this point.

Delivering Through Deployment {Army Wife}

Delivering Through Deployment {Army Wife}

Carey military birth

My name is Chelsea Carey and my husband is active duty Army. He serves as an Infantryman and we were stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, but are in the middle of being PCS’ed to Germany. My first pregnancy was fairly easy and as a dance instructor, I managed to stay active and teach the whole way through. So when we decided to try for baby number two I was excited about all of the awesomeness of pregnancy again. We found out we were expecting just one month after my oldest turned 2, and we were over the moon. Shortly after finding out about the pregnancy I started to feel the telltale signs of the growing life inside of me.

Nausea hit and I was okay with that, but then the nausea turned to vomiting, and once or twice a day turned into 10-15 times every day. I was in the hospital every week, sitting for hours as they pumped fluids into my body so that I would stay hydrated. During this time I was also going to school trying to get my degree during the day and I was teaching dance lessons in the evening – all while raising my two year old. My husband was training regularly and helping when he was able.

One night he came home and told me that despite being told there was no chance of a deployment, he would be leaving for Afghanistan shortly for a 6-9 month deployment. I had dealt with deployments before and long training cycles. He left for his second tour in Afghanistan when our first son was only 2 months old. But I never thought that I would have to go through the birth of a child…..the birth of OUR child that we made together…..without him. I was devastated but knew that I couldn’t dwell on that fact, because I was an Army wife and this is just the stuff that we are faced with. It’s the stuff we handle with grace.

I continued to have hyperemesis for the first 23 weeks of the pregnancy. Suddenly – as suddenly as it started – the vomiting stopped. I was overjoyed. Three days later I got a migraine. The migraine didn’t stop and from 24-26 weeks I dealt with the worst headaches I had ever experienced in my life.

My midwife said that they were probably the cause of the severe dehydration I had experienced. My husband was there every step of the way. He helped with our firstborn, made sure I always had a full bottle of water, and kept the bedroom dark and quiet when I just needed to take a minute and rest from the pain. I continued to teach, against my husband’s advice and continued to gear myself and my oldest child up emotionally for the coming deployment. I got a birth plan together, talked to the person that I wanted as my birth partner, and educated myself on a natural and unmediated hospital birth. My birthing experience with my first was far from perfect and was riddled with interventions and I wanted things to be different, despite not having my husband by my side.

At 27 weeks, after dinner, the unthinkable happened. I started profusely bleeding and my husband piled everyone in the car and we got to the hospital to find that I was contracting and dilating. I was given steroid injection and started on magnesium sulfate. An ultrasound was done, and we discovered my tiny little baby was breech. A C-section would have to be done if I wanted to give the baby a chance at survival. I was admitted to the hospital and prepared myself for the worst. What if my baby didn’t survive?

Twelve hours later, after hard contractions and dilating to 2cm, my contractions just stopped. I’m not sure if it was my profuse praying or what, but my baby decided not to make his appearance that night. In fact, he made no other move to come for another week. The doctor’s released me under strict orders. No lifting, no dancing, no exercise. They said only to do what I had to do…..modified bed rest.

How was I going to make sure life went on for my very active toddler with my husband leaving and me on bed rest?

 My husband did all he could to stay behind but his request didn’t get approved and when I hit 31 weeks pregnant, my husband boarded a plane and headed to Afghanistan. It was the hardest good-bye we have said so far. I was worried about going into labor at any moment and our 2 year old didn’t understand why dad had to leave.

After he was gone I was in the hospital at L&D every week with prodromal labor. Every week I made a little more cervical progression. I just knew I was going to end up having my baby in the hallway all alone. After having contractions all day one Saturday, I let my birth partner and best friend know that I thought I needed to go in but we held off. I sat in church on Sunday having contractions about 7-10 minutes apart. We finally went in and I was 6cm dilated and the doctor admitted me at around 2:30pm. I called my FRG leader and asked for a Red Cross message to be sent to alert my husband.  Several hours later my contractions just stopped again and the doctor suggested breaking my water. Even after that procedure my contractions weren’t coming on so I was started on Pitocin. Slowly but surely the Pitocin started working and the contractions started getting harder and coming on faster. Before I knew it they were so intense that I could barely catch my breath. My birth partner rubbed my back and let me groan into her shoulder with each wave of chemically induced pain. There was no way I could have a med-free birth when my contractions were so unnaturally strong. My will started to break and my birth partner urged me to fight through it. My mom and other best friend were there in the room as well, quietly looking on as I tried to push through the pain. I screamed to have my husband on the phone and cried because nothing eased the pain of not having him there. Finally I broke and begged for the epidural. An hour and a half later the anesthesiologist came in and began to get me prepared to receive that glorious drug.

Everything was set and I waited to feel that rush of relief and then I felt that familiar urge to push. No wait! I’m not ready! I need the pain meds to finish this and my husband still hasn’t contacted me! But babies don’t wait for pain meds or phone calls. It was time to push. And this baby had fought me the whole pregnancy so he wasn’t about to make this easy. He got stuck under my tail bone and I felt like I would never get him out. I could feel every inch of him descending down the birth canal. My mom and best friends were cheering me on and counting out my contractions. I knew with every push I was getting closer to meeting this baby. One more push said the doctor. One last contraction to get through and my baby would be here.

I pushed with my whole might and out he came at 1:24am on April 16th. Sullivan Reid Carey, a beautiful 8 lb, 1 oz little boy measuring 21 inches long with the longest hair I had ever seen on a newborn. He came right out and onto my bare chest and my mom cut his cord. My heart swelled with joy, relief, and happiness as I held his tiny warm body close to me and took in his clean newborn scent. I kissed his head and told him I loved him and then burst into tears as he let out his first little cry.

He nestled into my chest and began rooting and just moments after he was born he latched onto my breast to nurse for the first time. Although not exactly how I planned, my birth was beautiful. Every moment of pain and fear subsided instantly when I looked into the face of that little boy who looked so much like his daddy. Later that day, my husband called and was surprised to find that his second son had come into the world. He was on a mission and had never received the Red Cross message. He was over the moon when he got to meet his new little boy when he returned home 4 months later. That moment, when he walked up to us in all of his gear and wrapped us all up in his arms, was worth every moment of my “difficult” pregnancy.

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