Monday, March 31, 2008

Zoe's Birth by Elizabeth

Some women glow during pregnancy; I glowered and complained. In the first trimester, I vomited. In the second trimester, I vomited. In the third trimester, I had horrible heartburn, aching knees and feet and a teeny-tiny bladder. My doctor wanted to induce labor on my due date, but miserable as I was, I wanted my baby girl to come on her own time. The doctor agreed to let my pregnancy take it's own course, and I continued to say completely rational things like, "Induction wouldn't have worked anyway. They're going to have to take this baby by C-Section because she's never coming out." To his credit, my husband managed to keep a straight face most of the time, as did my mother and my best friend.

To Zoë's credit, she came right on time. I woke up at 1:30 a.m. on April 17th -- her due date -- and thought I had wet the bed. Feeling irritated, I waddled into the bathroom and discovered that my pants were dry but I was bleeding. Not just a little mucus-plug blood, but more like what I would expect toward the very end of a period. I thought, "I made it all the way to my due date, and now I'm losing this baby! Something is so, so wrong." But I tried to stay calm, thinking they could surely save her at the hospital if I could just get my husband to wake up and call the doctor. Even then I was still convinced I'd have that dreaded C-Section. After a couple minutes of my shouting his name, my husband came to and we got in touch with the doctor. She assured me that a little bit of blood was a normal beginning to labor and said it was time to head for the hospital.

Once I'd been examined and told again that the blood I saw was normal and that the amniotic fluid itself was clear, I began to relax. Because we were so tired and our adrenaline had been so high, time passed in a funny way. An hour passed in just a few minutes, and I never felt agitated about how long it took to get a birthing room or for labor to really get swinging. However, my doctor wanted me on Pitocin to speed things along. I knew I could refuse her suggestion, but I wanted to cooperate and I wanted to see that healthy little girl for the first time. So I was immediately on an IV, but they gave me a portable one so I could walk around the room. Every once in a while (again I have no sense of how long these intervals were) a nurse would come in and up the amount of Pitocin I was getting.

At some point, the pain of those augmented contractions became much more intense. I was handling it okay, but when the nurse asked how much pain I was in on a scale of 1 to 10, I said 7. Pre-labor, I'd been determined to get through on my own pain tolerance and grit, but I was tired and agreed to taking something laced with Phenergan. The nurse claimed the only side-effect to Phenergan was feeling sleepy. My husband and I were both exhausted already, so we figured a little more sleepiness couldn't make that much difference.


I ended up clinging to my husband, whimpering and shaking during contractions and then falling asleep as soon as they were over. A minute later, the next one would jolt me awake. I broke down and asked for an epidural, and that sucker worked like a charm.

For all the pain and suffering my husband remembers, in my mind that lasted about twenty minutes tops. The part of labor that stands out in my mind was laying down to sleep in a totally comfortable and blissful state thanks to the epidural. Once in a while, the new nurse would come in and wake me while she checked heart rates etc. Then I would drift back to sleep. Around 4:30 p.m. they turned my epidural off and by 5:00 p.m. I was pushing, but not really feeling any pain. Just little twinges. I could see Zoë's head in the mirror they brought into the room for me, and then the doctor was there, asking me to stop pushing, telling me that my laughter (we had a funny nurse) was pushing the baby out without any effort from me. Then they laid my baby girl on my belly and she said, "ahhh."

That was it. I was an addict. I would go through labor and delivery every day of my life to feel that intense, complete joy. I couldn't stop smiling, I loved everyone in the room, I loved my husband, I loved the doctor, I loved the nurses, but most of all I loved that baby. My baby. My baby who made forty weeks of misery worth every second I had suffered.

It wasn't the labor I had expected or wanted, but in the end, it was the best day of my life. I don't expect to have one that equals it until I get pregnant and deliver again.

Zoë Virginia was born on April 17th, 2007 at 5:27 p.m. At 8 pounds 5 ounces and 20.5 inches, she truly was the best little package Elizabeth ever delivered. She was Elizabeth's first birth.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Liam's Birth by Robyn

I woke up at 5:30 am feeling "wet". After two trips down the stairs to the bathroom, I determined my water might be breaking and woke my husband. We paged the midwife. It was three weeks and a day before my estimated due date. This is the beginning of my birth story.

I realized I was having contractions on the way to the hospital and remember little of the twenty minute drive, other than insisting my husband call someone just to let them know what was happening. My midwife had recommended we go to the hospital to get checked out due to the early timing of things and I wanted my support system to have some support as well. He called his parents. At this point, I was still uncertain that my baby was on the way. I was more worried that I would be sent home on "bed rest" and resting had been one of the more difficult demands of my pregnancy, until the last few days. What started as nausea and fatigue on Wednesday evening had developed into increasingly intense pain in my ribs by Thursday. This pain, relieved only by the less than eco-conscious number of baths I took in a three day period, was thought to be the discomfort of my baby's position in the last weeks of pregnancy. I refused to believe it was more than that. The contractions that I thought had started Sunday morning were a welcome shift in my body's discomfort.

Our parking garage ticket stamped 6:31 am announced our arrival at the hospital where we had chosen to give birth. Not wanting to feel like a "patient", I opted to walk through the main entrance and take the elevators to the floor of the birthing center instead of being wheeled in from the emergency room- a tip I remembered from our hospital tour. Movement felt good to me, working with the natural waves and surges rippling across my belly. I walked down the long hallway through the doors of the birth center, stopping every few steps to let my body rest when it needed. I was directed to triage where the plan was to test the fluid I was leaking to see if it was amniotic fluid and confirm that my labor had begun. My husband arrived minutes later from the parking garage, just in time for the nurse to examine me. It was then my water broke and, in her words, my cervix "melted". I was five centimeters dilated, April 30th would be our baby's birthday.

As we walked to our birthing room, we confirmed the names we had chosen for a boy or girl. My contractions were stronger and quicker paced and I was anxious to get in the water where I had found comfort for the past several days. I was wearing a sleep shirt I had brought from home and was comfortable rocking my hips back and forth while waiting for the birthing tub to fill. By now, I wasn't able to talk much and I remember it being very quiet in the room, just the sound of the water filling the tub. Upon confirming my labor, the nurse paged my midwife and she arrived in time to help me into the tub where the warm water enveloped me like a blanket, nurturing the process of birth. My contractions continued to intensify in nature, but were much more manageable in the water. I tried different positions, but found that relaxing back into the water's weight was most effective. My husband held my hand, rubbed my back, his presence a welcome comfort along with the water. After about an hour, I started feeling the urge to push. For some reason, it just didn't feel comfortable to push in the water, so I got out and onto the bed.

After about thirty minutes of pushing (and one interruption by my husband's parents to bring him coffee!) my baby's little head emerged. I now joke that the pushing phase is the actual labor in birth- it was much harder than the contractions, especially knowing I still had the rest of the body to go! A couple more pushes and my husband and I became parents to a gorgeous baby boy. It was 8:51am. The weight of my son in my arms was unlike anything I have ever felt. He looked exactly like I thought he would.

Shortly after birth, I tried to sit up and passed out. Believing I was only dehydrated from the stress of such an intense, quick labor I was given IV fluids. However, labwork and an elevated blood pressure reading quickly indicated I had developed an advanced form of pre-eclampsia called HELLP Syndrome, explaining my malaise over the previous few days. Over the next four days, I was on the bed rest I feared and was given more IV fluids/drugs and received two units of blood. Apparently, I was seriously ill but you couldn't have convinced me of that. I was on a birth high and convinced things happen for a reason, took the opportunity to lie in bed and nurse my son. We were released on the Wednesday evening following Liam's birth on Sunday morning. In spite of the complications, I have complete faith that my body did what it needed to preserve the health of me and my son and the natural process of birth. I was also blessed to have amazing supports in my husband, midwife and labor nurse.

Liam Christopher was born at 8:51 on April 3oth,2006 and weighed 6lbs, 15oz. He is Robyn's first child.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Amaya's Birth by Jeanna

At 1:30 a.m. on November 2nd, just two days before my due date, I woke up with very mild contractions. I sent a message to my boyfriend who was at work, to let him know that I might be in labor. By the time I went to the bathroom, I realized it was real. There was no way I could go back to sleep and they were coming very regularly. The contractions were still mild and I figured I was in for a long day.

Two hours flew by, and my boyfriend got home around 3:30am. He had just worked ten hours, so he laid down for a quick nap. I rested too - as much as I could - until about 5:00 a.m. when I decided it was time to call my doula. As expected at five a.m., there was no answer. I decided to wait awhile because my contractions weren’t too intense yet.

Finally, at 7:00 a.m., I decided that I should call the birth center and let them know I was in labor. After that, I called my doula again and she answered. Since I was still talking through my contractions, she suggested that I ask a midwife friend to come over and check my progress. I knew I wanted to stay at home as long as possible during my labor, so I agreed. She arrived quickly and told me I was just 2 cm dilated. This just reiterated the fact that it was gonna be a long day!

My doula dropped her boys off and arrived at my house just before 9 a.m. She rubbed my feet, we talked, and I called family. Since I was having a hard time getting comfortable and had a lot of back pain, she called a doula friend to ask if we could borrow her birth ball. Then she suggested that I take a warm shower while waiting. I spent about thirty minutes with the shower right on my lower back. Everyone made me some peanut butter toast which I thought I wanted, so I decided to get out. I spent a lot of time resting on the toilet - getting out of the shower was way harder than getting in!

When I came out of the bathroom, I didn’t want my toast anymore. I sat on the couch, then moved to the floor, then on the birth ball, and then back to the couch in a matter of minutes. I told them I wasn’t going to be able to do it without drugs. It was only 10:45 in the morning and it hurt SO much. My doula kept encouraging me and told me how great I was doing. Then I got the urge to push! This shocked all of us. When we checked my cervix, it was definitely time to go!

I rode in my doula's van with her other friend by my side. My boyfriend followed with my car. It was incredibly difficult to climb into the van and the hospital seemed so far away. I reminded them that I really wanted to push, and they said I could just a little bit to relieve the pain of the contraction. As soon as I did, I felt a big POP. “Something happened… my water just broke!” I shouted. My doula told me to reach down and touch the baby’s head. I did, and I felt her! I thought I was going to have my baby right there, but we quickly arrived at the hospital.

When we got there, they told us what room to go into and my doula gestured that I was ready now. They followed us into the room and I climbed right up on the bed before they could even lay blankets down.

“Where is my boyfriend?!” I asked. Mind you, he had no idea my water had broken on the way, so he was taking his time parking and calling people. Someone found him and ran him to the room, so I started pushing right away.

At 11:14 a.m., Amaya was born. I pulled her up onto my stomach and just looked at her with total awe and disbelief. I finally got to see the little girl who had been growing inside of me for so long. As they cleaned everything up, I nursed her for the first time. I had no idea how much I would love breast-feeding. There’s nothing better than knowing your body, which so perfectly provided for nine months, can continue to perfectly provide everything to keep this tiny being alive and healthy outside the womb.

I had no idea Amaya’s birth would go so quickly, but I’m thankful that it did! There is nothing that I would change about the entire experience. It was perfect. I’m so happy that I did it and I can’t wait to do it again!

Amaya Lillian was born at 11:14 am on November 2, 2005. She was Jeanna's first child. Jeanna is expecting another baby in May of 2008.

Simon's Birth by Bethany

Finding Strength at a Homebirth:

For me, this birth began Wednesday morning at my last scheduled appointment with my midwife before my due date. It was a normal visit, everything was fine, and she mentioned towards the end that she could check me vaginally if I wanted. After thinking it over, I decided I did want to know so I could plan a bit better. She checked and looked very surprised that I was 50-75% effaced and “a stretchy 4 centimeters”. She basically said she'd wait to hear from me soon! I had a few sporadic contractions that afternoon but nothing stronger than a Braxton-Hicks until I nursed my toddler son to sleep around 3. That brought on some pretty strong contractions until I took a hot shower to relieve them. Then not much happened until after dinner when I nursed him to sleep around 10 that night. Once again, the nursing brought on strong contractions but this time they didn't stop. As soon as they started, they were about a minute long and 3-5 minutes apart and required all my concentration. I called the midwife and after she heard me go through one contraction on the phone, she left right away to come over and called her apprentice to come, too.

I labored at first by walking around, pacing, really, and leaning on the dresser or my husband during a contraction. Then I labored kneeling on the seat of our big sofa chair. That felt really good, but every contraction was hard and there wasn't much time between them. After the midwife had been there an hour or so, she checked me again...7 cm! I thought for sure this labor would be a lot shorter than my first labor was at 32 hours.

The next few hours I mostly labored in the bathroom. I was constantly on the toilet as my body cleared everything out, but during contractions I liked to pull really hard on the towel hanging from the towel rack and sway back and forth. I kind of felt like pushing at that time, but then it hurt to push. The midwife suggested laying down and trying to relax a bit. We went to the bedroom for a while, but I couldn't relax laying down, so it was back to the bathroom. The midwife checked me and the baby still hadn't dropped. I could tell this bothered her a bit, but I didn't have time to worry about it in between contractions. Eventually, the labor came to a kind of low point.

Throughout the first few hours, everyone had been very supportive and encouraging—rubbing my feet and shoulders, applying pressure to my lower back, telling me what a good job I was doing. But now it was (besides me) totally quiet. Everyone was sitting in the bathroom not saying anything or touching me at all. It was a horrible feeling! I felt like I was doing something wrong. The midwife asked me, “What's going on here? Why hasn't this baby dropped yet?” I felt accused, but didn't know what to do differently. Here is where things get a bit foggy. I was still wanting to push but not really enjoying it. The midwife suggested that we go back to the bedroom and just do some real pushes instead of the half-hearted ones I had been doing.

Back to the bedroom and in a semi-upright position on the bed, I began to really push. In just a short time, my water burst all over the midwife. We're talking a high pressure fountain of amniotic fluid. This was no gentle trickle! At that moment, I could feel the unrelenting pressure of my baby's head. He was on his way down and there was nothing I could do about it but help him out by bearing down. I pushed and pushed. Time ceased. Only he and I existed, engaged in the intimate dance of birth. And then he was born. I don't remember the crowning or the head coming out. Only that final sensation of his body coming from mine, into the world. A boy.

That moment following the birth of your baby is difficult to describe. Relief is followed quickly by joy. Then your mind can finally take in the enormity of the task you've just completed. Amazement and a sense of accomplishment hover around you as you fall in love with your child. Then the tasks of life begin again—breastfeeding, calling your family, eating. But even as you move away from the birth itself, those strong and intense emotions which overcame you continue to color your life for years. The joy, the love, the amazement—they all become a part of you just as the baby becomes a part of your family and your life. This birth taught me the power of my body and the strength I had inside myself. I birthed powerfully and I can live more fully now with the knowledge that I am capable of powerful and amazing actions.

Simon David was born on March 3rd, 2005. He was Bethany's second baby and largest to date at 9 lb. 15 oz. Bethany currently helps other families have amazing births through her doula service. She can be reached at

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Every Woman, Every Birth, Every Story

The birth process is a sacred experience in that it is universal and individual in nature. As women we are transformed by birth in a way that is indescribable to those who haven't been through it. In the moment that a baby is born so her mother. Transition is a term used in labor to describe the shift from active labor to the "pushing stage" but it could also be used to describe the shift in a woman's soul as she walks through the door of motherhood into the unknown, be it for the first or tenth time. Every birth is a is a new beginning. Share your stories as a way to honor your process. Share what you learned, what you gained, what you lost. Share your birth.