Birth Story: “Intense. But incredible.”

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Baby Hamilton’s birth story, as told by mama

I feel very blessed to have had a wonderful pregnancy, birth, and start to life together as a new family of three–and have to thank Health Foundations for providing the support to make it happen. When I became pregnant, I thought how and where I was going to give birth would be a no-brainer–I assumed I would do what all of my friends did: a hospital birth, with my OB, and definitely an epidural (you’d be crazy not to, right?!).

My first trimester was going so smoothly that I became a bit paranoid that I wasn’t really pregnant. So Fran and I kept our pregnancy a secret from everyone until we made it to the second trimester. During that first trimester it felt like a mini honeymoon with Fran because we found ourselves staying in to avoid the questions around why I wasn’t drinking, etc. One night we searched Netflix for anything “baby” and came across “The Business of Being Born.” This documentary opened our eyes to a whole new concept around birth, and spoke to me in a way that really excited me. Fran and I had spent the prior 2.5 years completely changing our approach to health. Essentially we committed to putting health first, starting with our approach to fitness (we joined a Crossfit gym) and then diet (we did a lot of research around the pitfalls of the “standard American diet” and starting to cut out grains and sugars that were inflaming our system and keeping our bodies from burning fat for energy).

We had such a positive experience with this “alternative” approach to health, that I found myself very receptive to an “alternative” approach to childbirth. I have never had a need to go to a hospital before in my life, so I really started to wonder why I should need to be in a hospital now, with all these potential intervention measures, when I was the healthiest I’d ever been in my life and knew that women have been delivering babies naturally for thousands of years? After watching that documentary and a few others, we started doing a lot of reading and research, we toured birth centers and hospitals, and spoke to midwives and my OB about our options. After a lot of debate and consideration, we followed our gut instinct and decided to transfer to Health Foundations when I was 20 weeks in to my pregnancy. The remaining fears I had around being out of the hospital quickly went away as I had my prenatal appointments with the midwives and started taking the child birth education classes.

Okay– now on to my birth story!

When I was 34 weeks along, I got this strong feeling that my baby was going to come early. I don’t know what it was, but I was convinced. So imagine my disappointed when my “due date” came and went, and no sign of baby! I chalked it up to my first lesson in motherhood–I’m on someone else’s schedule now. He calls the shots! So time to temper my expectations and go with the flow. Easier said than done, especially when my biggest fear was getting to 42 weeks and having to go to a hospital to deliver the baby.

When I went in for my 40 week appointment Monica checked me, and she said I was still very posterior. So I spent the week going on lots of walks, got adjusted a couple times, and tried accupuncture. At my 41 week appointment (Tues), Monica swept my membranes, which made me pretty crampy for the next day or so. Through the baby stress test at 41 weeks the baby checked out as healthy and the machine showed that I was having contractions–that was a surprise because I wasn’t feeling them! Encouraging, my body was working away! I also went in for an ultrasound to check on amniotic fluid–all looked good.

On Friday of that week I had my next appt with Monica, and she thought maybe baby’s head was a bit tilted, preventing him from engaging my cervix. So she showed me how to do inversions at home to try to lift him up and off, and then go for walks to get him moving down. Along with that I did more acupuncture, took more walks. No contractions. Went in on Sunday (41 weeks and 5 days) and had the catheter put in and went for a walk. To our surprise, it fell out after 2 hours! I thought maybe I had done something wrong, because it came out but labor didn’t start. Amy had me come back in that evening to get checked and get the castor oil+herbs — which I was to take the next morning if I wasn’t in labor. She said my cervix was in a good spot, but didn’t share with me how dilated it was (we found out the next day that I was 4 cm at that point! I’m glad she didn’t tell me — would have messed with my head I’m sure).

Cramps started to get intense around 6pm on Sunday, after that appointment. We went for a walk and went grocery shopping. I took a bath at 8pm to ease the cramping, and to get ready to go to bed early to try to get some good rest. I was in bed at 9pm, and contractions started then. From 9pm-1am I was able to rest/sleep between the contractions (8-10 min apart). My back was really feeling it, so I put on a hot pack which really helped. Fran was great at telling me to relax, just as we practiced in class.

At 1am I couldn’t lay anymore — contractions were getting more intense, and about 6-8 minutes apart. I tried different positions but all I could handle was standing and leaning against the wall, and then between contractions I found myself pacing the bedroom (with all the adrenaline, I had a hard time relaxing). I had a few unpleasant trips to the bathroom, where I threw up everything in my system. We called the midwife page at 2am, when contractions were about 5-6 min apart. Amy was excited for me that I was going to be able to have this baby without castor oil (I’m pretty sure having that bottle stare me in the face was what started labor) and she listened to me breathe through a contraction. I could still talk through contractions and wasn’t yet vocalizing, so she told me to keep it up and said that next time I call I won’t be able to talk as much.

At that point we called our doula, Sarah, and she came over. She had me take a hot shower, which felt great on my back. And then encouraged me to try laboring on my hands and knees, and start to really focus on resting between contractions (head down on a pillow) and pay less attention to the contraction. This helped me get some much needed rest. Contractions were getting more intense, and I had to fight the urge to pace and lean against the wall like before. Sarah left the room to let me and Fran work through contractions together, and she listened from outside the door. My contractions weren’t following a consistent pattern so after a while in that position, Sarah suggested I pull one leg forward (like a deep runners lunge) and do juicy hip circles (Sarah is also a yoga instructor at Blooma, so she was using cues that she uses in the classes I would go to–which was nice and familiar). I thought she was nuts, because I thought that would be too much, too hard. Between contractions I told her that I was never going to think of those juicy hip circles the same way again! 🙂

But I gave it a whirl — for 2 contractions on each side. Well that seemed to adjust baby’s position, because I definitely started to feel something new, which I later confirmed was the urge to push! I just went with it, thinking I was still more than 3 minutes apart on contractions (I had mentally prepared for a very long labor)–and I didn’t really wrap my head around the fact that I was already through transition. I guess those juicy hip circles in the runners lunge helped me get through that. But apparently my vocalization changed and based on how I sounded, my doula suggested we make the move to the birth center. This was around 4:30am. Sarah got in touch with Amy, who heard me in the background and said “Oh, yep, I’ll be right there!”. We jumped in the car and the car ride was as promised — hard. Luckily there was no traffic and Fran drove very fast!

We beat the birth team to Health Foundations, so I had a contraction or two on the ramp outside the door- -likely waked some neighbors (Sarah found my flip flops in the parking lot, I labored myself right out of my shoes!). Rachel got there first, and we got in the room and had a couple more contractions. I told her I felt my body pushing, so she checked me, and indeed I was 9 cm dilated- with just a lip remaining! She asked if I wanted a water birth, and I said I was open to it (I wanted to let my labor decide what would feel best when the time came). But I really wanted to labor in the tub for some relief. So she started filling the tub right away–though it felt like an eternity before it was full. While I waited, I labored on the bed on all fours, and put my head down on a pillow to rest in between. Fran got emotional at this point, as he was so relieved that we were at Health Foundations and in good hands–everything got so intense so fast! At one point I looked up between contractions and said “tub time?”… I was thinking, let’s do this! I wanted to get in there and be able to move forward with pushing.

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The tub was full, I got in, and the pushing urge was really there — Rachel said I could, but slowly like I had been outside the tub. All in all, I pushed for about an hour (the total time I was in labor at the birth center!) — and our baby arrived! I was on my hands and knees, so Rachel said that once he was born she would push him through my legs and he would swim up to me so I could catch him and bring him out of the water. It was completely amazing. He came swimming through with his eyes wide open–such an incredible feeling to be able to grab him and pull him on to me.

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The birth team was awesome –I was so impressed with all of them. Fran was a champ, definitely benefited from the child birth classes to help prepare. It was tough for him to see me laboring. I am SO glad we had a doula–Sarah was amazing, and really helped at home (where the majority of labor ended up happening). I was surprised that during labor I never questioned my decision to do a natural labor. I was expecting to have doubts and to have to mentally push those thoughts out, but they never came. Also I had been nervous about my umbilical cord being around baby’s neck (I had been told that this is pretty common, but it still freaked me out)–mine ended up being wrapped around his neck once, but it didn’t harm him at all and Rachel was able to easily unwrap it.

In total I’d say I was in labor for 12 hours (including pre-labor)– 6 of which was active labor+pushing. The birth team applauded my ability to control the pushing, and take it slow. I didn’t need any stitches, and both me and baby checked out as healthy and good to go. I will share that when the nurses had me get up for the first time to use the bathroom (after about 3 hours of laying and bonding with baby), I made it to the bathroom but passed out once I got there — I think at the sight of blood (first time I really saw any… and I have a weak stomach). The nurses took good care of me, got me lots of fluids, and back in bed without any issues.

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It was truly an amazing experience. Intense. But incredible. And everyone who has checked on our baby’s health have remarked on how awake, aware, calm, strong, and healthy he is — which was our goal in having a natural birth, and I think only made even better by going with a water birth. And my recovery was smooth and quick, I was excited I didn’t need to have any stitches (even after delivering a 9 lb, 3.5 oz. baby with a 15 cm head — which apparently is in the 99.8th%!).

Special thanks to….

Health Foundations — for providing personal attention and care throughout my pregnancy, and an unforgettable birth experience that helped our family get started in this new life together in a healthy, beautiful, and very special way.

My Husband, Fran — for being fully committed to being my partner through this journey, for being such a strong supporter, and a beautiful father.

My doula, Sarah Auna — for being a strong, calm, beautiful presence and providing support through this amazing process to both me and Fran.

Crossfit St. Paul — for helping me to put health as a top priority, and to learn that my body is stronger and more capable than my head likes to think it is and that I can push through and achieve great things.

Body Workers, Amber (chiropractor) and Adrienne (massage) — for helping me to feel amazing throughout my pregnancy, even at 41 weeks pregnant my body felt great! You helped me truly believe that my body was made to do this and it was all very achievable–and perhaps my swift labor was possible because my body was all good to go!

Blooma — for being a weekly reminder throughout my pregnancy that my body is completely capable of birthing this baby, and for making the journey towards motherhood a special and sacred time. And for introducing me to my amazing doula, Sarah.

My Parents — for raising me to be an intellectually curious, confident woman who feels empowered to make informed decisions

Birth Story: Meeting Finnlee

Finnlee Joan birth story

The birth of Finnlee Joan told by mama Nicole

Since she was 41weeks, I had been getting a little worried that she would never come out, so I requested to work a evening shift of Thursday so I would be on my feet. We had a check in with Monica who gave me a belly band and told me to have a good night at work. Sure enough I started having contractions. I didn’t know what they were (now I know!)– they stopped when I would rest, so I didn’t really concern myself. After three weeks of everyone at work asking me “when are you going to have that baby? I can’t believe you are still at work!?” I was excited to move the process along.

Friday 10/24

Evening comes along and I started to leak- best way I can describe it- my water was slowing breaking. I probably went to the bathroom like 50 time in 4 hours. I was having to convince my husband that my water broke but he was not so sure. We called Monica and she said just to sleep, eat, and the rest will take care of itself.

Saturday 10/25

Morning came and Nick was so excited the baby could be coming, he stayed up until 4am cleaning the house. When I wanted to take a hike at 9am, he was too tired. I called my sister-in-law and we went hiking up the sledding hill by our house, which did cause the contractions to increase but I was still able to talk through them. At this point, I had pulled out all my Health Foundations binders and was looking for all the stages of labor. Also it seemed like in every birth story in the Ina May book, the women went for a hike to keep labor going. I was fearful that the contractions would not ever come consistently because after the walk, they stopped again.

I had been seeing an acupuncturist to try to get the baby out earlier that week so I went to my 2:30pm appointment to get the show on the road. My husband drove to make sure I was safe and to ask the acupuncturist how this whole thing worked. He put the needles in me and he and my husband carried on talking and laughing meanwhile my contractions became much worse and I was not so easy going at this point. We left and I really wanted some ice cream before this labor thing got really intense so we stopped at Culvers. I ate a sundae and before I could get around the block, I had to get him to pull over so I could vomit. I guess it was Mother Nature’s way of making sure I didn’t eat any more bad food.

Recalling that the labor stages book said vomiting means things are moving, I was getting a little nervous. The book was right, I started having contractions every 5 min. But my husband would not let me go to the birthing center until they were 3-1-1, he must have been listening to Rochelle (our childbirth education instructor) during class. I begged him for two hours to leave the house, but it was not until Monica gave him the go-ahead to drive me in at 8:30 pm that he agreed.

We arrived to hear another mama laboring in the other room where another baby was being born. This was a little intimidating until I heard the baby cry, then I was jealous because she had a baby and I had a lot of work to do still. Monica checked and I was 5cm dilated. I asked her how far I was and she said ” you’re far enough you can stay.”  It had not occurred to me there was a chance I would be sent home. I was ready to meet my baby and did not plan on leaving! Thank goodness we stayed at home long enough.  The next 6 hours were a bit of a blur: shower-tub-vomit-repeat. At one point, Monica checked me and said I could start pushing. My husband wanted to catch her and the first thing he saw was her little face with her hand over it. Nick told Monica that the baby had her hand on her face and we were still in the tub. Monica calmly told me to get out of the tub and do a runners lunge (with a baby head half way out.) One more push and there she was! Nick got to catch her like he wanted.

We met Finnlee at 3:26am on Sunday October 26, 2014.  She was 7lbs 10oz and 20.5 cm long.

Birth Story: Women should be running the world!

ElenaJane

Birth Story of Elena Jane

As told by mama Emily

Elena Jane was born Sept. 7 at 12:45 a.m. She weighed 8 lbs, 1 oz and was 21.5″ long. Here’s how it went down:

T-minus 5 days until the 42- week mark. Monday, Sept. 8 was 42 weeks, this was Wednesday, Sept. 3. We met with Midwife Monica, she had me wear a belly band to make sure everything was lined up. A belly band sounds nice — oh it supports your back from your massive belly. But, actually it was kind of painful and I had to wear it over night. I kept coming up with excuses to take a shower so I could have a reprieve for 10 minutes.

T-minus 3 days until the 42-week mark — Friday, Sept. 5. We met with midwife Monica in the morning and she checked things out. She said things had progressed slightly since last time and my cervix was soft. I was dreading the herbal induction but by this point had succumbed to the fact that this is probably in my future. Monica suggested we do the Foley catheter–I would need to return that afternoon so Midwife Amy could insert the Foley. I was sent home with the herbal induction if, by Sunday morning, nothing happened I would need to start the herbal induction — which is ingesting something every 15 minutes followed by a lot of time in the bathroom (as I’ve heard).

My husband, Geoff, and I left with my bag of “goodies”. We decided to go to Mickey’s diner in St. Paul to load up on a greasy meal (figured it was similar to an herbal induction, right!?) and then went to Como zoo to walk around. Luckily, I took a 2-hour nap before going back to the birth center to get the Foley.

I know we learned about the Foley in childbirth ed class or at the Health Foundations complications class, but until I actually had to have it, I don’t think I filed it in my brain as something to recall. The Foley catheter is a thing that is inserted into your cervix and then two small balloons are filled up with saline solution on each side of the cervix. This is meant to aid dilation. It falls out on its own around 4 cm, otherwise you have to have it taken out. I was scheduled to have it removed on Saturday at 4 p.m.

As soon as midwife Amy filled the balloons, I got instant cramps all over. By the time I came home, the pain was so bad, I called the midwife line to see if there was anything I should do — I couldn’t imagine having this constant pain until 4 p.m. the next day. I will remember Monica’s words forever, “Well, Emily, it sounds like it’s doing what we want it to do, which is put you into labor…so wrap your head around that!” I laughed and thought, OMG — no kidding, I can start doing my relaxation and breathing (for some reason that didn’t occur to me until she told me that). Monica said to focus on if contractions were coming and going and to call if they got close together or especially if the catheter fell out.

Once I had that to focus on, the contractions were more manageable. I could barely eat anything for supper (rice and cream of mushroom soup) and then I went to bed. The contractions lasted all night but by the morning, they had lightened quite a bit so I could eat a solid breakfast (thank goodness or I don’t know if I would have had the energy). After breakfast we went for a walk which picked things back up quickly — we didn’t make it for a long walk and we had to stop every 5 – 7 minutes to work through a contraction.

I got back and called the midwife Amy to check in and let her know where we were at. She said she’d see me at 4pm but to rest and eat some oatmeal. Geoff went and got me some oatmeal of which I could eat half — and then in less then an hour the contractions were so bad, the oatmeal came back up. Geoff called again to let Amy know the contractions were consistently 5 minutes apart ( I was also concerned b/c I needed to get to the birth center for antibiotics b/c I tested positive for group B strep — and they said I should go in about 5 min apart). Amy said to really try to get some sleep and she’d see me still at 4pm.

I went to bed to try to get some good shut eye but within 15 minutes I had to pee and out came the catheter — those balloons were WAY bigger than I had thought…Not quite a raquet ball but I’d say maybe two ping pong balls on each side. As it was coming out I thought, what good practice for birth — HA (not the case). This was at 1:45pm on Saturday.

We ended up meeting Amy at the birth center at 3:30pm. She wasn’t quite there when we arrived so I had some lovely heaving and ho-ing out on the deck until she arrived. As soon as she opened the door, I went into the birth room (the one on the left), knelt on the ground with my head on the sofa and dealt with a few more contractions while I got my antibiotics. I heard my husband ask Amy, “Do you think we’ll need to go home or is she far enough along to stay?” Amy said based on the noises I was making, I was staying (I was relieved).

My doula, Kim, arrived shortly after. I started working through contractions in the shower on a birth ball, which was nice and then Amy had me get up and walk up and down the steps and around the studio upstairs. I don’t know what we would have done without our doula there, it was nice for Geoff to be able to take a break or stay with me when I wanted. I was so out of it, I didn’t notice any lapse in having someone there to help me. And I later found out that he had eaten dinner at some point…who knew!?!

Around 6 or 7pm, Dr. Amber (chiropractor) came to adjust me. Her three cute kids walked in and I was again heaving and ho-ing in the waiting room. They were so cute but I couldn’t say a word to Amber!  After the adjustment, Dr. Amber had me go to the bed and hang one leg over the bed ( I think we watched a video of this in class) and labor there for a bit. After several of these on each side, Amy checked to see where I was at.

With Amy’s check, my water broke because it was right there and she said I was fully dilated and ready to push! I couldn’t believe it! It didn’t even seem possible, I kind of just assumed at that point that the baby would be in me forever and I would have contractions the rest of my life. She said once I stood up, I’d probably feel a lot less pressure and an urge to push.

I did feel less pressure but never really had the urge to push — just pushed when I had a contraction as they told me. This was 9:30pm. I started pushing on the birth stool — not really a fan. I felt kind of like the gorilla I saw at the zoo that morning — just sort of sitting there with my big belly while everyone watched me from every angle. Then we did squats in the shower — these were my least favorite as they were the most painful, I think I thought the baby would accidentally fall out on the hard shower floor (I’m an idiot) and I didn’t like that I couldn’t rest in between pushes — just stand. Then we labored on the bed in the normal legs raised position — and a little with the birth ball on the bed..by far my favorite because I liked that I could rest in between. However, Geoff and our Doula sure had to be strong to basically be my make-shift stirrups!

We rotated between all of these positions maybe three times. Every time Amy suggested the shower squat thing I gave her a bit of a stink-eye (she later told me!) but complied because I knew the pain meant it was working. Throughout I thought I would not have enough energy to get through it. A few spoons of honey I think pushed me through.

Finally, we got to the point where I could feel things happen and Amy told Geoff to get ready to catch the baby. She had one of the nurses (Monica – a nurse in training and her first birth) take his place to hold my leg. That was exciting for me because I knew it was close. I asked if I could push even if there wasn’t a contraction, I was ready for the finish line. I pushed and felt her head come out. Amy told everyone to wait (while she moved the umbilical cord from around the neck). I remember just being super still and then she said, “ok” and I was still. That felt like 10 minutes of waiting for — I didnt realize she was saying ok for me to finish pushing. I just watched her and it felt like silence. Then she looked at me and said, “ok, push” and that was super easy! Elena’s slippery squirmy body went from Geoff’s hands to my stomach — It was awesome!

I remember saying something along the lines of, “Holy @#$&, I cannot believe women have done this for so long. We deserve a huge amount of money and women should be running the world!”

The rest is a blur — I had to get that darn placenta out. I had to cough a bunch which was hard because I was sore everywhere and my throat hurt from groaning for 12 hours. Ok, it wasn’t anywhere as close as hard as birth but I was just tired and wanted to cuddle my baby. Geoff was nervous because there was bleeding and clotting that the nurse was concerned about but they all calmly did what they said would happen in the complications course (super helpful). I was on cloud 9 and didn’t really have any concerns.

We packed up and headed home at 5:30 a.m. It felt a little weird to be driving home with an infant after having no sleep at all and going through that but it was nice to be home. All things said and done: Labor for 33-ish hours, active labor for 12-ish hours, pushing for 3 hours, 0 drugs (well accept for the antibiotics and ibuprofen afterwards), 0 herbal inductions :), 1 cutie pie and 1 happy family!!

I can’t say enough about how amazed I am with the nurses and midwives at Health Foundations. What an amazing profession they have been called to do. I could never do it but I am so grateful for them!

Emily, Geoff, Elena & Ella bean (the dog isn’t too jealous!)

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We’re having a good time– a birth story

Baby Jacob’s Birth Story as told by Rochelle Matos

birth6As a birth doula, childbirth educator and mother of 4, I know that birth rarely goes exactly as you hoped or imagined it to be. However, in the birth of my fifth baby I experienced what I would call, “my ideal birth”. It was absolutely amazing and I’m so thrilled and thankful for the experience!

In the weeks leading up to Jacobs birth, I would have contractions from about 4pm-9pm every 15 minutes or so, nothing too strong, but it was comforting to know my body was getting ready. The day before his birth, these same easy sort of contractions started in the morning and kept going – all day. I wasn’t in labor, but this was different, so I texted my friends who were going to attend the birth that I was experiencing something new – just a heads-up. We had a wonderful evening as a family going on a picnic and swimming at a local beach. Got home and went to bed as normal.

That night, at 2:00am, on July 4th, 2014, I woke up with a real, strong contraction. Afterward I went to the bathroom and noticed some bloody show. “Is this for real? A 4th of July baby?” I kept thinking. I went back to bed and had another contraction at 2:30 – again, super strong – definitely different from the weeks leading up to this point. After lying in bed for another 15 minutes, I was feeling restless with lots of adrenaline. I got up and brushed my teeth and did my hair. Yup, I wanted to look pretty for the birth, so I straightened my hair at 2:45am. After that I felt calmer, and went back to bed at 3:00am. I contracted 2-3 more times and at 4:00am told Luis that I was in labor, he promptly encouraged more sleep, so we rested until 5:00am when the contractions were coming every 20 minutes. At 5:30, I called the birth center, Amy told me to eat breakfast and see what would happen as the sun came up. I did as she suggested, eating breakfast with my husband, but had a hard time determining if labor was going to continue or fade. At this point, the contractions were anywhere from 10-20 minutes apart and not getting closer… however they were so, so strong that after each one I would think, “I should be at the Birth Center by now”. At 7:15am I asked if I could come in, we made a plan to meet at the Birth Center by 7:45am.

Health Foundations birth centerLuis loaded the car, I texted my friends and called our doula. I told everyone that we were heading in, but since I wasn’t sure if this was really going to happen, I told them to wait on standby. The drive to the birth center was fun, Luis and I really enjoyed the morning together – I kept saying, “we should get up before the kids every morning and hang out together”. It was awesome to have a morning, just the two of us, it felt sort-of like a mini date morning together. We arrived at the birth center at 8:00am. Amy was still setting up so we wandered about upstairs… it was nice to have the birth center to ourselves and relax.

Initially, in my birth plan I requested no vaginal exams, however I was uncertain if I was really in labor, the contractions at this point were still 10-20 minutes apart. I asked Amy to check me, so I could decide if the team should come on in. She did, and found I was a 7-8cm. I was so relieved and that little bit of knowledge helped me to relax, I was in labor and going to have a baby – today!

labor #1At this point, I was experiencing a quite a bit of back labor. Amy suggested the TENS unit and I was eager to try it out for myself. It was really helpful – it didn’t take the pain completely away, and I still needed Luis to put pressure on my back, but it felt like a little massage to help ease the pain during and between contractions.

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At 8:30am, we asked our team to come on in to the birth center. As the birth team started arriving, I welcomed them – we chatted and laughed. Everyone was surprised by the joking and smiling of the morning. I kept saying “we are having a good time” in reference to the birth stories I read in Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin. And I really was having a good time, it was so fun to have my friends and family come and be with me on this special day.

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By 9:00am, Sibyl our doula, Anna my sister-in-law and photographer, Laura my friend and videographer, and Liz, with 2-week-old Maeve, all arrived at the birth center. Having everyone come was a wave of joy. When the last person drove up front of the birth center, I looked out the window and said, “Now that everyone is here we can go have a baby”. I had hoped everyone would be able to come, but with kids and busy lives it was all uncertain – I am amazed that they could all be there. Quickly, the labor picked up – with the frequency of contractions increasing.

 

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I made my way back to the birthing suite, knowing I’d want to get into the water soon. I looked around the room, it was so beautiful and everything was ready. I had set up my birth altar from the Sacred Pregnancy journal & class, I was wearing my birth necklace, Luis was with me every step of the way, rubbing my back and kissing me. Amy, my midwife, whom I truly trust, was ready. After a few really strong contractions I was ready for the tub.

 

Birth Altar

 

At 9:30am, I climbed into the tub and again looked around the room, everyone was here; it was perfect. I made a joke about everyone watching me enjoy my hot tub and where is my margarita and we all laughed. Did I mention we were having a good time?

 

Tub w: Birth TeamI rolled on to my knees away from everyone, facing Luis to get ready for baby to come. We quietly talked for a few moments, sharing this little break together. It was a private and intimate moment. Then I had the beginnings of wanting to push. I reached inside to see if baby was close – nope, he was about three inches inside. 10 minutes passed.

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tubamy1tubamy2Next contraction, I felt an overwhelming downward pressure, I couldn’t decide if I should relax or push, so I panicked, I can’t do this. I started shaking my head, I couldn’t breathe and my midwife, husband and doula were all talking to me and encouraging me. “Just Amy,” I said, “Just Amy”. She reminded me to slow my breathing, she told me I was strong, and that I could do this. I repeated her words and calmed down.

After a few little pushes, Luis got in the tub and I felt again where baby was at (hoping he was about to crown), nope, still an inch inside. With the next contraction, I felt like a bowling ball was moving through my body, it was so intense, I pushed short easy pushes as Amy encouraged, I reached down tubwithbackpressureand felt the head slowly coming, I stopped pushing wanting everything to stretch, and his head slowly eased out. I said “head”. I could feel the bag of waters around his head, like a soft helmet. Then the bag released and I said “bag broke”.

At this point I knew I was going to survive – one more push and I’d be done. With the next contraction, I gave a good strong push and his body slid out of mine. I opened my eyes to see my baby under the water, and slowly brought him up to my chest. The bag was still on his face and Amy pulled it off. As soon as I heard his first little whimper, I breathed a big sigh of relief and laid my head back on the tub. It was 9:51am.

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birth8After a bit of holding and laughing and rejoicing we climbed out of the tub to the bed. In bed we delivered the placenta and started nursing. While nursing in bed, I discovered a knot in his umbilical cord, which I thought was really cool. We had some food, continued to nurse, and enjoy baby Jacob. Slowly the birth team took off and soon it was just Luis and I and Jacob resting in bed together. Bliss!

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After four and a half hours at the birth center we were ready to make our way home. That night, we could hear the 4th of July fireworks as we lay in bed with our fifth baby – we even saw some from our window! It was a celebration of his birth, a beautiful day and new beginning for our family.

 

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Photos by Anna Botz

Fashionably Late, But Worth the Wait

The birth of baby Afton

By Mandi Crawford Morgan

Afton’s birth story doesn’t actually start on her birthday.  It actually started 9 days earlier, the first time I went into labor.  After that day, I never dreamed I would stay pregnant for another 9 days!  I think that had I not had that “false” labor, I would have been perfectly fine staying pregnant as long as I stayed pregnant, but since I DID have that day of labor, and I knew I was 4+cm dilated at that point, every day felt like it could be “the day”.  I was SO frustrated a few days later when all labor symptoms went away completely, as if nothing had ever happened.  It was also frustrating because I was wanting my mom to be there for the birth, but she and my dad were leaving for Michigan on Monday the 19th, so I felt like I was on the clock.  So many evenings I would get contractions, and a couple of those evenings, they would really kick in, making me think I would go to bed and wake up in full blown labor – but no.  They would always go away.  Right along with my sanity.

On Sunday the 18th we went to church.  I was 1 week “overdue”.  Here’s a friendly note: don’t go to church past your due date unless you are prepared to field eleventy billion questions and comments regarding the status of your pregnancy, your body, your activities, etc.

I was talking with my mom that afternoon, knowing that if I didn’t go into labor by that night, she and my dad wouldn’t be able to come up for the birth.  By early afternoon I had pretty much given up hope, and I told her as much, but told her I’d keep her updated and of course I would keep “trying to have a baby” (ha).  A few hours passed and I started getting some good, real contractions.  Nothing close together or super long, but they were nice and strong!  I was standing at the sink doing dishes and I realized they were getting to be a pattern, and they were getting closer together so I started timing them with my iPod, just out of curiosity.  Sure enough, they were coming consistently, about 7 or 8 minutes apart (if I remember right) and VERY strong!  I kept my mom updated, but tried super hard not to get my hopes up.

My mother-in-law texted me later that afternoon to let me know that she and my father-in-law were heading to bible study, and asked if I had any prayer requests.  I texted back that they could pray that these contractions kept up and turned into full on labor.  Around that time I texted my midwife to give her a heads up that I was having contractions, but didn’t want to cry wolf.  She called and we chatted and agreed that I would take a shower and see if they kept up.  I SO BADLY didn’t want these contractions to go away – at this point I was literally pacing around the house trying to make sure they didn’t go away.  I was afraid to change what I was doing for fear that *poof* everything would disappear.  I finally did take a shower, and was happy when the contractions stayed consistent (by this point they were closer together, I think less than 5 minutes apart and still strong, causing me to have to really concentrate through them).  I needed to get antibiotics for GBS+, I knew we needed to go to the birth center – but I was still SO paranoid that as soon as I got in the car, my labor would stall, and I did NOT want to leave that birth center without a baby in my arms!  But it was decided that this really did seem like the real deal, and I should come in anyway.

I called my mother-in-law to have her come over, and apparently they had JUST been praying for us and had JUST said Amen when her phone rang with my call I think that’s pretty cool.

In the last 2 labors, each time people came over, my labor would slow or stall out.  So when my mother-in-law came over I was making a huge conscious effort to stay calm and act as if it was no big deal, just trying to keep the adrenaline down.  Thankfully my contractions were still coming on strong, I even had to wait through a couple just to get in the car!  During the 1/2 hour car ride to the birth center, I expected things to slow down, as they always had, but instead things intensified!  Contractions were about 3-4 minutes apart and very strong – this was NOT a comfortable ride!  However, I did tell Ryan not to worry about bumps or anything, because I wanted the contractions to keep up.  He still apologized every time we hit a bump in the road.

It was decided that this really WAS real labor, and even if it wasn’t, I wasn’t leaving without a baby, so I told my parents that if they were able to make it, I would love for them to come.  They left Ames around 8 and got to the birth center before midnight.

I didn’t get a cervix check when I got there, it was determined that I was clearly in labor and that we already knew I was 4-5cm dilated, so checking me wouldn’t really tell us anything more at this point.  Fair enough.

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My parents arrived around midnight so I got to see my dad for a bit before he headed on to our house to watch the kids and get some sleep.  My mom stayed and was exactly the labor support I needed.  Between her, Ryan, and nurse Jill, I felt completely taken care of – I could handle anything!  I spent my time pacing around the room trying to get the baby to move down, stopping to dance and rock during contractions.  My goal was to keep moving, hoping my body movements and gravity would help get the baby moving.  I snacked on grapes and fruit leathers, sipped on juice and water, and spent a few hard contractions on the toilet (holy hannah, those ones are no joke!  But I always tell my doula clients “mama doesn’t like toilet contractions, but baby loves them!”  It really helps move baby into a good position).  I did spend a little time in the shower, using the hot water as pain relief on my back while I sat on the birth ball.  The whole time I labored, I was getting periodic checks for baby’s heart rate, and it was great every time.

I got a cervix check at 2:00am and it was determined that the baby was still pretty high and I was 7-8cm and that my bag of water was bulging.  We had been saying all along (before I went into labor) that if my water broke, we were pretty certain the baby would be born soon after.  When my midwife (Amy) checked me, she agreed that if my water broke, baby would come down, I would finish dilating, and we’d have a baby.  And though I typically am VERY much in favor of leaving the bag of waters intact until they break on their own (mine have never broken on their own), I asked her to break my water so I could get in the tub and hopefully have a baby soon.  I went to the bathroom, and at 2:30 she broke my water.  I was 8cm, -2 station, and 95% effaced – and it was time for the tub!!!

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For you mamas that have never been able to labor in a big tub/whirlpool, my heart goes out to you.  The second I submerged myself into that water, I felt SO much pain relief!  In fact, I even had one good contraction in the water and thought to myself “oh my goodness, I should have done this long ago!”  It was glorious.

And then my body laughed at me and said “PSYCH!!”  From then, it was game on.  Contractions came on strong and hard and close together.  Just like in my labor with Tanner, I was getting cramps in my hips during contractions and I couldn’t find a good position to be in during them.  That sent me into a bit of a panic during those contractions – I moved and flipped and spun.

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My team was so good, coaching me and encouraging me to breathe and relax through the contractions, offering sips of Emergen-C between and reminding me to let my baby do the work right now.

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Around 3am I could no longer just breathe through the contractions.  My body took over and I began to push through the contractions.  Amy checked me and informed me that I still had a thick anterior lip (I wasn’t fully dilated) and that it was VERY important that I keep breathing and not push.  Sooo…  ummm…  yeah.  Telling a mama who is laboring naturally and having the natural urge to push to not push seems great in theory, but truly, it was out of my control.  I tried, I really really did.  But I couldn’t help it.  My body needed to push.  I felt and sounded very animalistic and not in control of my own body at this point.  I remember Jill holding me at one point and giving me one of those “hey you, pull yourself together, you HAVE to do what we tell you for your own safety!” speeches.

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I breathed.  I moaned.  I made noises that would probably scare my children.  I tried everything I could NOT to push.

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Despite my efforts, my baby was descending on it’s own.  Who needs mama to push, baby knows the drill!  The anterior lip went away.  I had reached down to feel my progress at one point and was encouraged that I could feel a head, but I knew it wasn’t “crowning” quite yet.  At about 3:10 I reached down again and was SHOCKED to feel my baby’s head – it was crowning and I could feet about an inch or so outside of my body!!  Amy let me know that I could gently ease the baby’s head out on the next contraction – and that’s what I did!  The baby’s head was out and I was still in shock!  Amy and Jill had to remind me that it was ok to push and that I had to get the rest of my baby out now.  One more push is all it took!!

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I did it!  I did it!!  I labored hard, I let my body do the work, and I CAUGHT MY BABY!!  Oh my goodness, I wish I could explain how I felt in that moment, but it’s indescribable.

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I felt proud, exhausted, exhilarated, happy, elated….  My baby was HERE!  The baby that surprised us with that little blue line 9 months before, the baby we hadn’t planned for, the baby that would complete our family…The baby I never knew I needed, was here!

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And SHE was beautiful Ryan was right – he was 4 for 4 on guessing our babies genders – it was a sweet little girl.  We named her Afton Dawn (Dawn is both my middle name and my mom’s middle name) and she was born at 3:12am with barely a voluntary push.  She was amazing.

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I had gotten my dream VBAC Waterbirth in a Birth Center.  I couldn’t have asked for it to go any better.

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I got out of the tub to “birth” the placenta, and Ryan cut the cord after it stopped pulsing.  Seriously, everything (aside from being overdue, haha) went exactly as I had hoped it would go.  I felt empowered and strong.

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And seeing Ryan wrapped around another baby girl’s finger?  Priceless.  He is such a sweet daddy.  He was so smitten, at first sight.

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And having my mom there?  Also priceless.  Our family has been through a lot over the last few years, so having her present at the birth of my 4th baby (she was also at the birth of my first baby, and was also a fantastic coach) meant so much to me.  It still brings me to tears thinking about how far we’ve come and how much God has done to heal our family – seeing her in these photos represents so much more than just a grandma holding her newest grandchild.  So so much more.

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We all hung out at the birth center for a few hours, Ryan had to work that morning, so he snuck a nap, and I rested and got some food in me.  We left the birth center 4 hours after Afton was born and I got to go home and introduce Cody, Tanner, and Trinity to their newest baby SISTER.  It was a dream.  Seriously – if you are in the area and are looking for a good birth center experience for your maternity care and birth, I can’t say enough good things about Health Foundations.

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All of the photos in this post were taken by the lovely Christina of Electric Lime.  She was so awesome, professional, and she gave me an unforgettable gift of birth photography, I can NOT thank her enough for capturing this once in a lifetime moment for me and my family!!  She even came to visit us a couple weeks after Afton’s birth and did a little lifestyle session in our home!  And you KNOW she’s talented because I was so overwhelmed with life at the time that my house was a disaster and she was still able to capture beautiful images without letting everyone know that my house was a mess.  Thank you Christina!

And thank you Dr. Amy (midwife) and Jill (nurse) for being nothing short of AMAZING during Afton’s birth!  I couldn’t have done it without my team (to include my mom and Ryan of course)!