Gather this Friday for Birth Story Sharing

HFBigroomgatheringJoin us this Friday Sept 20 from 4:30 to 6:30 to share your birth story, listen to other women’s birth stories, or both!

Come share and gather birth wisdom!

This is open to all mamas——bumps and babies welcome.

You can choose to share or just listen–if you want to share, please note that upon signing up.  You can sign up by emailing jaime@health-foundations.com

We will have tea and treats. The cost of this gathering is $15.

Join us for a wonderful afternoon of amazing stories!  We look forward to seeing you then!

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Why Write your Birth Story?

WritingBirthStoryCoverArtGrowing, birthing and caring for a new baby is one of the most joyful times in our adult lives, and also one of the most demanding.  During the postpartum period, so many peripheral tasks may be vying for our attention (and, for many of us, all we really care to do is stare at our beautiful new baby…and sleep whenever possible.)

Making time to write your birth story may seem like one extra thing on the to-do list, but there are many reasons to make this task a priority.

Writing your birth story is a transformative, cathartic experience, with the power to help you process, make meaning from, heal from, preserve, celebrate and honor your unique experience of birth.

The following are eight great reasons to write your birth story.

1:  To remember

Writing your birth story preserves your memory of this important event for a lifetime (or longer!)  In the early days, you may run through your birth story again and again in your mind, remembering all the little details of this amazing experience.  But as time goes on, these details inevitably fade.

While it is ideal to begin writing in the early postpartum, it’s never too late.  If it has been months or longer since the birth of your baby, it is still very much worth your time to write your birth story (you surely remember more of it now than you will ten years from now!).

Memory-joggers, such as labor playlists and pictures, can help you recall fading details.  Talking to your partner or others present at your birth can also help to fill in the details of your birth, so you can write and preserve these memories.

TIP: If you can’t sit down to write out the narrative of your story, at least jot down some notes in those early hours and days after your baby’s arrival.  In the last weeks of pregnancy, consider getting a small bedside journal or type notes into a phone app or email to yourself.  (This can be helpful not only for jotting down birth story details but also for remembering the questions you want to ask your care providers—midwives, doulas, pediatrician, etc).

2:  To process and reflect

The experience of giving birth is one of the most profound, transformational, and emotionally rich experiences we will have in our lives.  In fact, how we gave birth can have a profound effect on how we see ourselves, how we feel about ourselves, and how we interact with others—including our baby.  For many women, it is imperative to their well being to talk about and process their birth stories.

Given the intensity of the birth experience, our memories can be jumbled or even chaotic-seeming until we have a chance to process them and assemble them in narrative form.  Writing can stabilize our experiences.

Writing your birth story enables a unique mode of processing that can’t necessarily be achieved through talking alone.  Writing accesses different parts of our brain—it is a reflective and reflexive practice that can help you process your story on a deeper level, helping you to explore and understand your experience in a particular way.  People often discover how they feel about something or find feelings transmuted as they begin to explore them through writing.  New perspective can be reached as you process and reflect on your birth experience by writing it down.

3:  To Heal

Along those same lines, writing your birth experience can be a healing experience.  One woman, reflecting on writing her birth story, commented: “At first I felt disappointed and angry that I didn’t not get to have the natural birth that I wanted.  But as I wrote about our transfer, how I ultimately delivered my baby, and how I felt when I held her, the anger changed and I felt like I was speaking not just for myself but for other women that don’t get to have their ‘perfect birth.’ I also realized that though the birth didn’t go as planned, I was surrounded by support of my husband and midwife. I ultimately felt strong and like I did my best in a situation I couldn’t entirely control.”

Both writing and storytelling are time-honored methods of healing from challenging life experiences.  While writing can’t always take away the trauma of difficult childbirth (or any experience), it can help us to express how we are truly feeling—it can give voice to the grief, disappointment, shock, and sorrow—and may help us come to terms with what happened and begin to make peace with it.

When we share our story on paper or maybe with others, we can find support, feel less alone, and become more empowered.  Saying: “this happened to me and this is how I am feeling about it” is a powerful exercise on the healing path.  Remember, while you can’t always change the past, you always have the power to change your connection to the past in this moment.

If you are struggling with aspects of your birth experience, you deserve to have the support you need to continue processing and healing.  In addition to writing, speaking with a counselor, having body/energy work, making birth art, healing through movement, and other measures can go along way to helping you find peace after difficult childbirth.

4:  To share

When we write about our birth experiences, we can share them with others—which has a number of potential benefits.  Sharing our story can help us bond with other people and find support.

When we share with our partners and other support people, it helps them gain insight into our perception of the birth, which can increase empathy and understanding and invite conversations about aspects of the shared experience.  When we share with other women, especially other mothers, we can find support, understanding, and camaraderie.

Sharing can have an unknown or unanticipated ripple effect.  You never know how your story will help someone else.  But it probably will.

5:  For your child

And let’s not forget our little ones (as if we could).  Writing down your birth story will enable you to share this story with your child and family for decades to come.

Consider for a moment what you know about how you were born.  Do you know the details?  Did your mother document your birth in some way?  Do you wish you knew more?

People whose mothers have a written their birth story often report gratitude for having such a treasured account of how they came into the world.  It can make your child feel special and important to know that you took the time to document their birth.  Whether or not it was an ideal situation, this birth was how they came into the world and it will always be special for them to know about it.  The experiences you had and the lessons they teach can have a profound impact on your child, both when they are young and when they grow up (and perhaps have children of their own).



“I printed out our birth story and placed it in my daughter’s baby book so she can look back and read about the day she was born. I can only hope that it will inspire her to have a birth without fear when she is ready to birth to her own baby someday,” reported one mama. 

6:  To preserve the beauty and spirit of the birth process

Many women (and men!) are profoundly affected by the stories of birth.  Birth is a sacred and primal process that connects us to our roots and to something greater than ourselves.  Author and healer Tami Lynn Kent calls birth the process of coming to the spirit door.

Like the beautiful children we birth, each birth story is completely unique and all have elements of the extraordinary in them.

Some women are driven to write their birth stories in an attempt to capture that beauty and power in words.  It can take some courage to do this.  While it may be “safer” to stick to the medical facts, writing about one’s full experience of birth—the physical, emotional, and spiritual—can be a powerful act.  Being honest about the deeper layers of your birth experience can be a true gift to yourself, your family, and anyone fortunate enough to hear your story.

7:  To help and inspire others

For most of human history, storytelling was the most potent way to transmit knowledge among kin.  In the past, we had a much greater connection to the world of birth and babies than we do today.  By the time we reached adulthood, we would have likely heard many birth stories, if not witnessed many births ourselves.

One woman writes: It’s sad that we don’t live in a culture where women gather post birth, removed from responsibility and routine, to sit around the fire under the stars with our female clan (including the elders and the young) and share our birth stories. Too many of our stories get lost in our hearts.”

While we are less connected to birth and birth wisdom today, telling our stories can be a way to reconnect to ourselves, each other and the wisdom of birth.

Telling your birth story can help other women in your life.  We can learn so much from each other and our mothers; and our children can learn from us when we take time to talk about our birth experiences.

When things don’t go as planned and we are brave enough to share our story, we can help other women who have or will experience similar situations.  Likewise, when we have a positive experience of birth, sharing our story can be a way of showing other women what it looks like to birth naturally, or without fear.  Hearing positive birth experiences is a powerful antidote to the mainstream perceptions of birth as a risk-laden, painful medical event.  In this way, the personal can become political, as we spread the truth that birth can be a positive, fearless, beautiful experience.

8:  To change our collective perceptions of birth

It was not so long ago that women were put under anesthesia (“twilight sleep”) during labor, completely disconnected from the experience of their births.  It is not uncommon in many parts of the world for women to have few options or control over their birthing experiences.  Even those with more choice may feel like it’s not acceptable or desirable to speak about their birth experiences.  It can almost feel taboo to speak candidly about birth, much less celebrate and honor this experience.

Writing and sharing your birth story can be a political act.  It can be a way of saying “Birth is important.  The WOMEN who birth are important.  MY birth is important. “ Regardless of how you feel about your birth, putting words to your experience is a powerful way to show that your experience matters.  Because it does.

Some women may feel reluctant to write their stories.  Maybe they don’t know where to start, are afraid they aren’t going to tell it right (impossible!), or get stuck in the practical limitations of sitting down to write with a little baby to care for.   But nothing worth doing is ever easy (cases in point: pregnancy and childbirth).  While not easy, these labors of love are worth it.

If you’ve written your birth story and want to share it with others, please consider submitting your birth story to be posted on our blog (with pictures too if you wish!)
If you need a little help carving out time, want to receive some guidance and feedback, or just want to write and share your story among other mamas, please consider joining us for our upcoming Write Your Birth Story Workshop in September 2013.
For information about either birth story submission or the upcoming workshop, contact Jaime@health-foundations.com.

Write your Birth Story Workshop!

WritingJoin us for a special two-part workshop during which you will have time and space to reflect on, process, write about, and share (if desired) your birth story with gentle guidance from Health Foundations’ blogger-writer-professor-mama-doula-in-training, Jaime Fleres-Mizejewski.

We will gather at Health Foundations on two Fridays: September 6 and 20 from 4:30 to 6:30 PM

This birth story workshop is for you, whether you:

  • gave birth a few weeks ago or many months ago
  • love writing or get sweaty palms at the thought
  • have a draft of your story or wish to start from the beginning
  • had the birth of your dreams or a different journey than the one you’d hoped for

No matter where you’ve been or where you are, your birth story is unique, important, and sacred—and deserves to be expressed and heard! Just like birth itself, writing your birth story is a profound and cathartic experience, the results of which you and your child will cherish for a lifetime.

Workshop Details:

Our first time together, September 6, we will:

  • talk about the importance and benefits of writing your birth story
  • gain insight into how to write (or edit) your unique tale
  • go through a guided meditation/reflection time to evoke memories and emotions from your birth experience
  • have time to write or edit your story
  • enjoy tea and treats

Please bring a journal and a writing instrument (crayons, colored pencils, pencils, or pens) or your laptop.  To help evoke memories, you may also wish to bring birth pictures, your birth playlist, any notes you may have taken in the postpartum, or any special objects that hold meaning to you and your birth story.

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Between the first and second gathering, you will have time to edit and polish your writing, getting feedback from Jaime via email if you desire.

On our second evening, September 20, we will have an opportunity to share our birth stories or listen to other’s stories, as you feel comfortable.  We will celebrate your accomplishment (with chocolate)!

Babies are welcome to attend both of our gatherings.

The cost of this two-part workshop is $40, including a round of editing feedback from Jaime via email, if desired. Please register by emailing Jaime@health-foundations.com.

Writing, like birth, is a transformative experience with the power to help you make meaning from, process, heal from, celebrate and honor your unique experience of birth.  Come honor yourself, your story, and your child; and connect with community.

Birth Story: “I couldn’t believe he was ours and what I had just done.”

20130305_Merritt_final_056The birth of baby Merritt

By Hannah Pierson

The Tuesday of my first week off work (9 days overdue) Zach and I went into the midwife for a non-stress test which the baby eventually passed , but took his sweet time to do so.  I had a cervical exam and I wasn’t dilated at all.  Then we got an ultrasound to make sure that the baby was still doing well.  Since Merritt passed everything, we went back home and scheduled another appointment for Wednesday.

On Wednesday we went back to the birth center and I had a Foley catheter inserted.  A Foley catheter is a type of intervention to try to induce labor where they insert a catheter and then fill it with small balloons full of water (one balloon on the inside of your cervix and one on the outside).  The objective is to use the catheter to slowly stretch your cervix open over the next 24 hours.  Getting the cervix to begin to dilate is a way to jumpstart labor and can sometimes even begin contractions.  The hope was that this would begin my labor or at the very least dilate me so that labor would be easier once it began.

Getting the catheter inserted was painful and uncomfortable, but Zach was there which made it much easier.  We went home with Jimmy Johns as a treat and Zach returned to work and I was pretty much bed bound.  As the day wore on I got more used to the catheter (the most annoying part is that it’s taped to your thigh) and in the afternoon Zach and I even took a very slow walk around the block.

As we were getting ready for bed, I went to the bathroom and started to feel the catheter falling out of me.  I screamed for Zach, as it was a weird sensation, and then it just sort of plopped in the toilet with my mucus plug attached to it.  It was much larger than Zach and I had thought so that was a bit of a shock.  We were so excited that the catheter had dilated me and we called the midwife who told us to come in the next day.  We then proceeded to call our moms who were very excited for us as well (we had to stave off Zach’s mom from jumping in the car and heading up right then).  We calmed ourselves down and were able to go to bed.

The next day (Thursday, 11 days overdue) we went in to meet with the midwives.  The catheter had indeed done its job and I was now 4 cm dilated.  We formulated a plan.  That Monday I was going to be two weeks overdue and would have to be induced at a hospital.  After the catheter, the midwives still had one more thing to try to make the baby come: an herbal induction.  An herbal induction begins with taking castor oil and then every 15 minutes taking a homeopathic or tincture.  All of these are meant to make your uterus contract and begin labor.  We decided that we would give my body one more day to go into labor naturally and then do the herbal induction on Friday.

We spent the rest of the day on Thursday (Valentine’s Day) doing absolutely everything that we could to make the baby come.  I got acupuncture for the first time, went to the chiropractor and got an adjustment, at the spiciest food that I could handle at Everest on Grand, had chocolate cake at home and then went for an epic walk at night in the snow.  Nothing happened.

DSC_0154The next day (Friday, February 15th), worried and feeling super unenthused about the herbal induction; I got up and did my prenatal exercise video one last time.  Then I ate a big meal and chugged the half cup of castor oil in orange juice.  It wasn’t as horrible as I thought it would be.  The worst part was the oily residue that it left on my lips and tongue.  As the morning passed I hung out in bed and followed the herbal induction regimen (the tincture was very foul tasting).  At first I felt just fine, but then by mid-morning I was on the toilet miserable.  At one point I cried to Zach, “This is horrible and I bet the baby won’t even come and I’ll still have to be induced!”

In the afternoon I repeated the castor oil again and was feeling pretty sorry for myself.  I was lying down in bed when suddenly I felt what can only be described as a gunshot go off from my uterus to my vagina.  I screamed to Zach downstairs and rushed to the bathroom.  When I sat on the toilet I could feel liquid falling out me.  I told Zach that I thought that my water had broken.  He kept saying, “Are you sure?” and I kept saying, “Well, I know what peeing feels like and I know I’m not peeing!” It was 3:00pm.

At the same time I was still experiencing the unpleasant side effects of the castor oil and shooed Zach out of the bathroom.  I then started to feel contractions and I was screaming out the bathroom door to Zach, letting him know when they started and stopped so he could time them on his phone.  He desperately wanted to be in the bathroom but I wouldn’t let him come in.  At one point I saw him peeking through the door and yelled at him to get away.  Even later, I could hear a swooshing sound coming from the hall and I realized that Zach was “sharking” (steam mopping) our floors.  He said that he felt so helpless and needed to do something.

It was all very intense between my water breaking, the contractions, and the after effects of the castor oil and I eventually let Zach in for support.  He called the midwife and they told us to come in to get checked and see how I was progressing.  Zach began to fly around the house packing our things for the birthcenter.  He also made a frantic call to our friend, Alex, who was going to watch Juneau for us while we were gone.  Later she said that she had never heard him sound so out of control.

On the way to the birth center, Zach began calling family to tell them to come up.  Funny story though, just a couple hours earlier, he had actually told them to stay home.  Earlier in the week Natalie, my mom, and his mom had told him that they planned to come up to the cities on Friday and stay until Monday.  They explained that they wouldn’t need to bother us and they would stay in a hotel.  Zach let this little detail slip to me and I completely flipped!  I already felt like the whole world was breathing down my neck to have this baby and now my family would be in the cities the entire weekend!  I felt like a watched pot.  So Zach kindly asked all of them to please wait to come up.  Natalie decided to go ahead with coming to the cities anyway.  My mom and dad decided to go visit my Grandmas in Manchester and then head up afterward.   Only Kim and Dick actually listened to Zach and they decided to go to the movies to get their minds off waiting for the phone to ring.  Just as they were about to leave is when Zach called them and told them to come up right away.  Kim says that she never would have forgiven him if she would have missed the birth.

We arrived at the birth center and I was still having contractions and my water was slowly breaking.  As it was February in Minnesota, it had snowed recently and there were huge mounds of snow in front of thebirth center.  Worst of all people had parked in front of the plowed sidewalk entrances to the building.  Zach was about to yell at someone to move their car when I grabbed his hand and climbed over the pile of snow.  The situation seemed much too urgent for waiting for a car to move.

Once inside the birth center we went upstairs and Jill (the nurse) checked my cervix to see how dilated I was.  She asked if I wanted to know and what would be a “good” number to me.  I told her that on Wednesday, after the catheter had fallen out, I was four centimeters and I would like to still be there our more.  She told me I was looking “great”.  Later I learned that “great” was still four centimeters.  Jill also tested to make sure that the fluid I was leaking was amniotic fluid and it was.

Afterwards Jill told us to go downstairs to one of the birthing suites.  Although a lot had happened, Zach and I had it so ingrained in our minds that labor would take many hours and we would spend many of those hours at home, that we thought that we would probably still be sent back home.  When we got downstairs, I asked, “Are we staying now?” and it was confirmed that we were.  That’s when I allowed myself to finally register that I was in active labor.  For the next few hours, even as the contractions intensified, I was just so grateful that I was in labor and finally having my baby.

At the beginning of labor I was walking around between contractions and then leaning on the counter in the birth suite during contractions, making big hip movements.  Zach began to squeeze my hips during each contraction and although I had him try other types of massage, hip squeezes were the best for me and that’s what he did through each contraction throughout the entire labor.  I often thought, “Ugh, I’m so glad I have a strong husband,” because at one point Natalie tried to do the hip squeezes and she simply couldn’t do them.

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Speaking of Natalie, she came early in my labor and we asked her to begin to photograph the birth.  She was wonderful throughout my labor and, pregnant herself, acted as our doula providing encouragement and fetching things.

After a while I changed positions and labored sitting on a small stool, bracing myself against the bathtub.  Afterwards I moved to the toilet facing backwards. Then Amanda (our midwife) suggested that I might enjoy laboring in the shower.  Amanda helped me in and I sat on a birth stool facing the support bars of the shower.  As I moved to the shower, Zach raced to change into his swimsuit.  There were people in thebirth suite and Amanda was in the bathroom.  Zach started to take off  his pants and Amy (our other midwife) noticed and closed the door.  Zach  said to Amanda, “Amanda, I’m changing now.  I’m like the least modest person on the planet” and Amanda said back, “Don’t worry, I’m not exactly modest either.”

For the next while, I labored in the shower, leaning forward and having Zach press my hips during a contraction, while the water ran on my back.  In between contractions, I would lean back and let the water run over my face, it felt so good, like a reward for a well done contraction.

During each contraction I would try to deeply breathe in and out and stay as relaxed and limp as possible.  Zach would remind me when I would unconsciously tense up parts of my body to stay relaxed and loose.

When I came out of the shower, completely naked, there were two girls about my age in the room who I had never met before.  They were birth assistants, RNs who the midwives bring in for extra medical support.  We had been told that they would be coming to the birth during one of our prenatal appointments, but I completely forgotten about that fact so when I came out I very snottily said, “WHO ARE YOU?”  In the end both of the assistants were wonderful and so helpful.

After the shower, Amanda suggested that maybe I should walk around upstairs in the yoga studio and do some big hip movements to help my labor along.  As we walked upstairs I remember looking out the big uncovered windows at the birth center and thinking, “Well, there we go, I’m in a bathrobe for all of Grand to see!” although I really didn’t care very much by that time.  I had a contraction on the front desk of thebirth center and then walked upstairs, slowly taking the stairs two at a time and doing lunges to help open me up.

In the yoga studio I did hip circles sitting on a yoga ball, then kneeled and leaned over the ball as I did hip circles.  Zach and I also slow danced together while I did big hip movements.  During this time is when my mom and dad came.  My mom came up to the studio and looked like she felt really bad for me, like her heart was ripping apart seeing me in pain.

After awhile, my legs began to get tired and I asked Amanda if it would be okay for me to lie down and labor on the bed for awhile.  As I went back downstairs, I passed my dad, who was fiddling on his phone in the lobby.  I remember I said, “Hi Daddy,” and he said, “Hey, Honey” and I was thinking, “I can’t believe that other people are on their phones right now!”  It was the first reminder that I had that life was going on outside my labor, which seemed crazy.

When I got back into the birth suite, I got into bed and Amanda left Zach and me alone to labor together.  My contractions on the bed were excruciatingly painful.  I think it might have had to do with the fact that I had nothing to brace myself on and was unconsciously tensing up during each contraction.  Zach helped me to get through about five in that position and then I moved back to the toilet and finally back into the shower.

This time though, even the warm water wasn’t enough to relieve the pain.  My contractions were beginning to become unbearable and in between I began to say, “This is so hard,” to Zach many times.  I also began to think in my head that I couldn’t go on any more.  I thought that I could get through a few more contractions like these, but if I would have to continue for hours and hours I simply couldn’t do it.  I longed for a plan of action and even told Amanda, “Amanda, if you could just tell me that I only had to do ten more of these I could get through it”.

Amanda could hear that my contractions were intensifying and beginning to change by the fact that my breathing was harder to control.  She also could hear that I was beginning to push before I even knew that I was.  She and I developed a plan that I would do two more contractions in the shower and then move to the bed to get checked and to ensure that my cervix was fully dilated with no lip.

Now, with this plan, I had a renewed confidence that I could carry on.  We moved to the bed and Amanda checked me.  At this point I was almost dilated although there was a lip on my cervix.  She manually had to push it back (which I really don’t remember as being very painful) because I was so focused on the fact that I had a plan.

After she pushed my cervix back, I got in a pushing position sitting on a birthing stool facing the bed.  Amanda originally suggested that I face away but when I said that I wanted to brace myself on the bed she was fine with it although she had to use a mirror and flashlight to check me in what was a more awkward position for her.  Amy was lying on the bed in front of me (I remember thinking that she looked so comfortable) and she began coaching me through pushing contractions.

Now, no one ever really told me how incredibly different pushing contractions are from the rest of contractions during labor.  I found regular contractions to be painful, like the most intense menstrual cramps you can imagine.  But pushing contractions, I barely even remember what they felt like because I was doing such intense work during each one.

At the beginning of each contraction I would tell Amy that I thought one was coming (they were actually harder for me to identify than regular contractions) and then I would take a big breath and bear down through the contraction as long as I possibly could.  I would breathe in and repeat and then do it again as the contraction faded away.

It felt like the most intense exercise of my life and there was so much pressure on my bottom that it was shaking, but I really enjoyed it.  Instead of just breathing through pain I was an active participant with a task and everyone was so encouraging.  By this time Kim was also in the room and in front of me were four mothers who had birthed a total of 13 children and they were encouraging me and cheering me on through each contraction.  They would all say, “Good job, Hannah!  Great pushing!  You are an awesome pusher!” which felt so good to hear.  In between contractions, I would say, “Thank you, thank you,” which everyone thought was kind of funny.

I also felt extremely loving at this point and kept telling Zach (who was still behind me, squeezing my hips) how much I loved him over and over.  I almost even told Amy that I loved her and then realized that was a little weird and held it in.

After pushing on the stool for awhile, I was making good progress.  I asked Amanda if she could see the head and although I wasn’t that far, I could reach up and feel his head inside me (it was squishy).  Amanda suggested that I could move to the tub and although I was fine on the stool, I took her suggestion.  Everyone helped me move and position myself in a way that I was wedged perpendicularly in the tub, pressing my feet and back against the sides.  As I got in I saw that Zach still had his shirt on and immediately told him to take it off as I thought he looked so weird.

I pushed Merritt out in the tub.  With each contraction I could feel my vagina opening more and more.  It burned a little around the edges but instead of experiencing a lot of pain, I mostly just couldn’t believe how weird the feeling was.  I kept saying, “This is craziness!” because it absolutely was.

During this time everyone was gathered around the tub, watching.  I talked to Amanda and asked her to please help me to slow down when he was crowning because I wanted to make sure that I didn’t push too hard and hurt myself.  She did just that and while Merritt was crowning she had me make “puh puh” noises like The Little Engine that Could to slow down my pushing.  Eventually Merritt’s head came out and then his body came out in a large gurgle afterwards.  It was the most insane feeling I’ve ever experienced!

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He was placed right on my chest.  It was 10:55pm. Zach and I cried and smiled.  I opened his legs and announced that he was a boy to everyone.  Then I double checked just to make sure.  I always deep down felt that he was a boy and I told everyone that.  Zach felt a little deceived because I had even kept that from him, I was worried that if Merritt was a girl, she would have a complex because her mom always thought she was a boy.

After announcing that he was a boy, I remember that everyone was talking a lot and I almost had to yell to tell them his name and explain why we picked it.  Then we hung out with Merritt for awhile longer and eventually Zach cut his cord.

I stepped out and delivered the placenta without even pushing, which was wonderful because at that point I just wanted to be done with the whole birth part and snuggle Merritt.  We hung out in bed for awhile and Merritt latched on right away.  In the next couple of hours the Grandpas visited, I got stitches (not fun) and ate a Jimmy John’s #9.  Then Natalie left to get some much needed sleep and so did my parents.  Kim stayed with us and we made the journey home.  Zach drove so slowly to not hurt me on the bumpy, snowy roads but it didn’t matter because no one was out at that time of night.  I remember looking at the clock at 3:30am as I snuggled in bed.  Merritt was in his cradle next to me and I reached over and touched him.  I couldn’t believe that he was ours and what I had just done.  I was so grateful to God.

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Birth Story: “the single most amazing experience of my life”

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The birth of baby Norah

By Rebecca Barth

Everyone always says that you’ll know a contraction when you have one, but for the first hour or so I wasn’t sure that I was in labor.  I told my partner, Dylan, to start timing the squeezes to see if there was a pattern.  Sure enough, each squeeze lasted about 40 seconds and they were coming about four or five minutes apart.  Labor!

We called the midwife to let her know what was happening.  She encouraged us to labor at home for as long as possible.  “Call me back in a few hours,” she said.  I took a warm bath and tried to nibble on snacks and drink water.  The contractions were getting more persistent and requiring more focus.  I rolled on an exercise ball for a while, listened to Abbey Road on vinyl, but the thing that helped the most was to hold on to the back of one of our dining room chairs while swaying my hips and gently stepping my feet.  I let my whole spine undulate during contractions while trying to relax as much as possible.

By midnight I was sure that labor had progressed enough to go to the birth center.  The midwife asked to talk to me during a contraction, which was not easy but I could do it.  She confidently said that I was not ready to come in yet and that I should try to labor at home a little longer.  However, I was getting concerned that if we waited too much longer the 20 minute car ride to the birth center would be extremely uncomfortable.  She encouraged me to take another warm bath and meet her at the center in two hours.

Although I had been anxious about the car ride, my contractions actually slowed way down on the drive over.  By the time I waddled into the birthing suit in my jammies and slippers, my contractions were much more manageable than they had been at home. Even so, I was confident that I was at least four or five centimeters dilated.  I had heard so many women say that they too were confident about their progress only to find that they had not dilated at all, but I was certain I was not one of them.

The midwife asked how dilated I had been that afternoon.  “About two,” I replied, “How far am I now?”  The midwife maintained a cool composure and said, “You’re making nice progress and you have some work left ahead of you.”  I laughed, “No really, how far am I?”  She just reiterated that I was doing great and that I should keep up the good work.  I was able to translate her evasive language myself: I was pretty much exactly where I was that afternoon.

My lack of dilation aside I was really proud of myself.  I felt like I was handling my contractions beautifully; I was able to turn inward, tune out the rest of the world, and focus on relaxing and staying open and calm.  I swayed, rocked, and gyrated around the dim room.  I quickly shed all of my clothing and hopped into the glorious tub.  I kneeled in the tub for quite a while as my doula supported me through contractions.  (Dylan had ducked out for a quick nap, knowing that we still had a long night ahead of us.)

Although the contractions were getting intense, I remember being able to quietly talk with my doula during the breaks.  I had known ahead of time that I didn’t want a lot of talking or noise during labor, but in this warm, cozy room with just the two of us, our soft whispers were so comforting.

My midwife came and checked on me periodically.  I was laboring fine and Baby was doing well.  Thus far in labor I had almost exclusively been upright, either standing or kneeling.  Lying down, even being on my hands and knees or draped over something, was not comfortable.

The midwife got concerned that with so many hours of being on my feet I was going to get tired.  She asked me if I felt I could lie down to try and get some rest.  Rest?  Was she kidding?  I humored her and gave it a try, but just as the first contraction set in I jumped up and started my swaying dance.  No way was that going to work.

The contractions got stronger and I became more introspective.  The talking in between contractions stopped.  The nurse and my doula encouraged me to try and eat something.  Food sounded revolting, but I remembered from our birthing class that eating and drinking during labor were important.  I forced myself to swallow a bite of applesauce, and somewhat defiantly shoved the spoon back into the bowl as if to say, “There, I ate.  Are you happy?  Now stop bothering me.”  I remember the nurse chuckling and saying that one bite wasn’t going to cut it.  I think I later stomached a fruit popsicle which seemed to satisfy the masses.

Some time later the midwife was back and strongly suggested that I try to get off my feet for a bit.  I understood why she wanted me to rest–I needed to have enough energy to keep laboring at the birth center and to be able to push later–but I really didn’t think I could do it.  However, I remembered hearing about women who eventually needed to be transferred to a hospital for an epidural and a break because they were exhausted.  The one place I didn’t want to end up was the hospital, so off to the bed I waddled.

The second my contractions started in that bed I started to cry.  I squeezed my eyes tight and started to fight each contraction.  For the first time in my labor I started saying “Ow,” and “I can’t do this.”  I silently cursed at the midwife for making me lay down.  I felt lost.  Then, my wonderful nurse took both of my hands and ordered me to open my eyes.  She looked straight at me and said, in a calm but firm voice, “This is your birth.  You get to decide how you do this.”  I remember feeing like the words could mean anything, but her look said everything.  She was helping me find my way back.  She was telling me to work with my body, not fight against it.  I sniffled, nodded my head, and took a deep breath.

The next contraction came, and I let it.  I breathed, and I let it happen.  And then, I kid you not, I fell asleep.  My contractions slowed down and I remember waking up in a dream-like state for each of them.  I would make sounds, move, or even sit up during a contraction, and then I’d drift back off to sleep.  My partner told me later that he and the doula marveled in disbelief at the sleeping woman in labor.

After I had rested for a time I felt ready to continue laboring.  My contractions were strong and increasingly intense.  The midwife checked my progress again, but she still wouldn’t tell me how much I was dilated.  Seriously?!  I was sure that meant that I hadn’t made much progress and that the midwife felt it would be discouraging to hear how little change had occurred.  She tried to focus on the positive changes (my cervix was thinning, Baby was doing fine), but I “still had some hard work ahead.”

I tried to rally.  I gathered my strength and went on laboring.  By now my contractions were becoming relentless.  There was little and sometimes no break in between contractions.  I stood under the hot spray of water in the shower for what seemed like eternity.  I gripped the support bars with all of my might while I swayed back and forth under the water.

Talking was long gone.  I didn’t talk and everyone around me knew not to talk either.  I started making small, sometimes completely unrecognizable hand gestures to communicate.  I mimicked drinking from a cup when I was thirsty, I shook my head almost imperceptibly when someone asked me a question, and I held up one finger when I wanted people to wait while I was having a contraction.  If someone reached out to touch me during a contraction, up went my finger.  It said, “back off, I’m busy.”  If someone tried to take my vitals and I felt a contraction coming on there was the finger again saying, “hold on a second, don’t touch me.”  My partner and doula deserve so much credit for being able to give me what I needed during this phase.  I wasn’t speaking or letting anyone touch me and yet I still felt completely supported and cared for.

As the contractions got even more intense I found myself dismayed by how relentless the process was becoming.  I couldn’t call for a time out and my body didn’t listen when I wanted a break. I felt like I was a servant to the process.  I kept talking to myself, reminding myself to stay open, visualizing how the contractions squeezed from the top while pulling the cervix open at the bottom, but I started to surrender to the knowledge of my body.  I took solace in knowing that I didn’t actually have to do anything; my body was doing it for me.  I could help or I could hinder, but this baby was coming.

We learned many comfort measures in our birth class, but as I felt my body changing during labor I instinctually found my own comforting rituals.  For a while I had the urge to push against something with my head.  Somehow pushing with the top of my spine helped me free up the bottom of my spine and I was able to sink into more relaxation.  Dylan’s chest was the lucky recipient of my pushing head.  At the start of the contraction I would find Dylan, grab him by the arms and pull him toward me.  I would push him up against a wall and then sink my head into his chest and twist it back and forth as my lower body swayed and swung.

I also started to do more sounding in this phase of labor.  I had the urge to make a lot of “mmm” sounds, but I remembered our birthing instructors words: “open mouth, open sphincter.” I tried my hardest to turn every “mmm” into a “mmmaaah.”  I also started talking to the baby.  During particularly hard contractions I would mumble, “it’s okay, it’s okay…” over and over.  My partner and doula knew I was talking to the baby, but at one point the midwife came in and seemed to be concerned.  “It is okay,” she affirmed.  I wanted to tell her “no, I know that I’m fine, I just want the baby to know he or she is fine.”  This felt like my first real motherly act: the baby was going through this stressful and arduous process with me and I felt responsible to help the baby stay calm and to reassure him or her that everything was going to be okay.  And somehow, putting the needs of the baby before my own made the contractions more bearable.

The hours kept passing and the contractions got overwhelming.  At one point I said, “I don’t know if I can do this any more.”  Even as I said the words I knew they weren’t true.  I knew I could keep going, I just needed some reassurance that everything I was doing–all the movements, moans, and grunts–were normal and okay.  Later I learned that when my doula went to get the midwife and told her what I had said, the midwife simply nodded, stood up, and calmly walked into the birthing suite.  This was just a phase that most women went through.  She crept into the bathroom where I was laboring and said just enough calm, reaffirming words to help me continue.  I was fine; this was what labor was supposed to be like.  It was so much harder than I thought anything could be, but it was normal and that knowledge was comforting.

As my contractions got even stronger and the baby got even lower, I decided to try sitting on the toilet.  I had read that many women found that to be a comfortable place to labor and I was going to take any iota of comfort I could find.  Now, I didn’t just sit on the toilet, I laid on the toilet.  I went as horizontal as one could get while still sitting on a toilet.  My head rested on the wall behind me and my feet were out in front of me as far as they could stretch.  During each contraction I grabbed Dylan’s hand and pulled back as hard as I could having him counter my weight.  (He told me later that his thumb had turned purple but good man that he is, he didn’t complain once.)  The toilet became my labor station for some time.  If there was a contraction, I needed to be on that toilet and in my pulling-on-Dylan position.  At one point in the early morning the midwife suggested that she check me once again.  I tried to get up and walk to the bed but as the next contraction started I literally ran back to the bathroom to have the contraction on the toilet.  It was the fastest I had moved in months.

I tried again to make it to the bed so that the midwife could check on my progress.  I made it just outside the bathroom door before another contraction hit.  I remember grabbing Dylan and pressing my weight into his body while thinking “if there were drugs here, I would take them.”  But then I thought, “If I really want drugs, I’m going to have to put clothes on and get into a car.  No way in hell I’m getting into a car.  I’ll be fine.”  That was the only moment that drugs crossed my mind and I am forever grateful that they weren’t available and that no one offered me any.  I understand why people take them, but I was really committed to a natural birth and I am so thankful to have been a facility that encouraged and supported that choice.

During the most intense hour of labor I remembered another bit of wisdom from our birth educator: “When you feel like you can’t do it anymore, it’s probably the transition phase, and you’re probably almost done.” I told myself that as I got back into bed to get checked a third time.  While I had no sense of time, I could see the sun streaming in through the window.  I smelled coffee brewing.  I had labored through an entire night.  I felt a little surge of power.  I had made it at least twelve hours.  Then my midwife looked down and smiled at me, “Now I’ll tell you your progress: you’re at nine centimeters.”  Nine!  I really was almost done.  That little surge of power turned into a wave, a tsunami of confidence.

I went back to the toilet for the final lap of labor.  I started to feel unbelievable pressure getting lower and lower.  With each contraction I felt more and more like I was sitting on a bowling ball.  I just couldn’t believe that I could labor much more without this kid falling out.  I muttered “I think I might be ready to push.”  The midwives had a shift change in the morning, so the new midwife who had taken over filled the birthing tub.  My doula, my partner, the nurse, and I made a small processional to the tub.  I realized this was really happening.  My dream of having a baby was about to come true.

Suddenly the once quiet, almost empty room was all abuzz.  It was still incredibly calm, but it had a sense of aliveness.  My mother came in and sat quietly in the corner.  The nurses prepared instruments and post-birth equipment.  Dylan slipped away quickly to put on his swim trunks in case I wanted his support in the tub with me.   The midwife helped me into the tub and to get comfortable.  Everyone was in their places ready for the show to begin.

I wasn’t sure that I truly had the urge to push but once the midwife gave me the okay I gave a little test push during my next contraction.  With that little test push my body surged into a strong push.  It was a lot like throwing up in reverse: the second you start to push it just takes over your whole body and you can’t help but push.  I gave a few strong pushes and the midwife told me to reach down to see if I could feel anything. When I did I was astonished to have felt a tiny, quarter-sized bit of soft, squishy, wrinkled baby head.  I remember exhaling, looking up, feeling the sun shine on my face, and smiling.

I gave a few more strong pushes before I felt the baby’s head in the birth canal.  I remembered that once the baby had crowned I should stop pushing to avoid tearing.  As I felt the fullness of my baby’s head, I willed myself to stop pushing.  It felt a little like stopping a race car on a dime–nearly impossible–but I slowed the baby’s progress to a screeching halt.  My position in the tub didn’t allow the midwife to have the best view, so I don’t think she saw quite how far the baby’s head had come.  She told me again to reach down and touch the head.  “I don’t need to,” I gasped, “I feel it.”  In a flash her hands were down under me, supporting me as I gave another push.  I felt the head slide out and then in a wave, the rest of the baby slid out into the water.  Dylan scooped up our baby and handed her to me.  I was so surprised that she was out so quickly!  Wasn’t I supposed to push more?  I thought the baby’s head would come out and then I would have to give several more pushes to deliver the rest of the baby.  All I could muster for intelligent conversation was, “We had a baby!”

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Norah was born at 10:30 in the morning, weighing six pounds, ten ounces, and measuring 18 1/2 inches long.

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After Norah got some vigorous rubs and puffs of air, she started to pink up.  We got out of the tub and delivered the placenta.  Once the cord had stopped pulsing, Dylan clipped the cord.  Our family of three made it to the bed to cuddle.  We tried nursing, but Baby wasn’t super interested yet.  I was so in awe of this beautiful baby that I was completely unaware of the nurse and midwife monitoring Norah closely.

IMG_1297Not long after we got snuggled into bed the midwife told us that Norah wasn’t breathing well enough on her own.  If she didn’t get the hang of it soon, she’d have to go to the hospital.  While I was worried and disappointed at the idea, I remember feeling like “we made it through all of the labor and delivery.  If this is what we need to do, it’s what we need to do.”  The happy post-birth hormones were wonderful.

 Norah did end up being transferred to the hospital.  My partner went with her and spent several hours in the NICU holding her and telling her all about the family she had just joined.  I stayed at the birth center to get cleaned up and to rest.  My pulse rate was really high for hours after the birth so I too was transferred to the hospital.  I had great nurses at the hospital who let me sleep in the baby’s room in the NICU.  One nurse even came to me in the middle of the night to take my vitals so that I wouldn’t have to leave Norah.  I spent the night nursing and cuddling my new, perfect little baby.

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Although I was sad about being transferred to the hospital and especially about missing those several hours with Norah after birth, I’m glad that our midwife did what was best for us.  Neither of us needed any medical intervention aside from monitoring, and we were sent home the next day.  I am forever grateful that we were able to birth the baby at the birth center and not in a hospital, but I am also thankful that we were taken to the hospital when we needed it.  It will always be a somewhat bittersweet ending to our birth story, but luckily it is just the start of our lifetime with Baby Norah.

I am so grateful for the amazing and empowering birth experience we had.  Sometimes when I’m sitting and nursing Norah I start to daydream about her birth, about pushing her out, and about seeing her for the first time.  It is the single most amazing experience of my life so far.  The fact that I birthed a baby makes me feel fierce.  It makes me feel like I can be a good parent, because if I am strong enough to birth a baby, I am strong enough to face anything that life sends my way.

Birth Story: “The Definition Of Perfection”

The birth of baby Revira

By Emily Grace Whebbe

In recounting our birth story, I finally fully understand the definition of a word I have used so many times: perfection.

Although I write this after a generous dose of oxytocin from breastfeeding, I will try not to embellish beyond belief. Perfection is a word and concept I rarely use or believed in, unsure of it’s even existence. However, after going through the experience of childbirth and now being able to be a part of this incredible baby’s life, I realize that what happened more than a week ago was as close to perfection as I could experience. Let’s start at 3:00 a.m., Thursday, August 4th.

Baby Revira was born on August 4th, at 7 pounds, 2 ounces, to proud parents Emily Grace Whebbe and Kai Curry.

Kai had been working late for the last few weeks, trying to get a project done before the baby arrived, and came to bed around 2:00 a.m. I had been sleeping for only a few hours when I woke up for my 3:00 a.m. bathroom trip and noticed that some fluid was dripping out of me…a lot of it. I hurried to the bathroom convinced I was finally having the incontinence issue during pregnancy that I hadn’t yet had. I was wrong.

“Um, Kai? I think my water just broke,” I said calmly from the toilet. I was more amazed than scared, as if the entire pregnancy I wasn’t fully convinced that it would conclude with actual labor. It felt like a science experiment had begun, as if I could say “Hey, Kai, the water is boiling” in a similar fashion.

Kai got out of bed and stopped at the fridge for a glass of water on the way to the bathroom. He sat down on the floor next to me and casually drank the water. “Are you ready?” I asked him. “Maybe you should just go back to bed,” he said. I called Cheryl first, one of the midwives at the birth center. She gave me the same advice to go back to bed, monitor any contractions, eat something, take a shower, whatever I needed to do to prepare, but mostly just get some rest. She sounded excited and calming, having a tone of reassurance I had gotten used to throughout the pregnancy. So, I went back to bed.

Contractions started within 10 minutes of hanging up the phone. They were 10 minutes apart, lasting 1 minute. I laid there quietly and let Kai get some sleep. The contractions weren’t that painful and I was excited that they were so timely and steady. I knew I’d have a baby in my arms within 24 hours.

By 6 a.m. I felt the urge to get out of bed and start preparing. I ate, took a shower, put in a load of laundry, and packed some last minute things. I politely told Kai, “If you have anything you want to do before we go, now is the time.” He answered from bed “15 more minutes.” I laughed, but knew he was tired and going into labor with little sleep wasn’t going to be a good idea. We laid in bed a minute and my contractions slowed down. It felt so nice to be relaxed, in labor, and in his arms. But then, another contraction hit that was so intense I ran to the bathroom to throw up. Kai took this as a cue to get up as things were getting serious, and we started our birth journey, first by going to my mom’s house to drop off our dog. I figured I’d labor there a little bit and get to the birth center around 10 a.m. if things were staying steady. After all, I had a prenatal appointment already scheduled then.

By the time we got to mom’s, the contractions were pretty strong. Mom seemed nervously excited. Every 5 minutes or so I’d simply get down on all fours and do some breathing into the rug of choice and then get up and promptly go to the bathroom. I thought to myself, “This isn’t so bad, I can just fall to the floor for the next few hours, no problem.” However, I soon realized that things were becoming even more intense and I’d soon not be able to make the car ride to the birth center, so we were off. Being in a car during a contraction was the worst, but at least we were only a few minutes away.

We arrived at the birth center at 9:30 a.m. I walked straight into the birthing suite and got on the bed to have a contraction on all fours. Midwife Amy and her apprentice, Sky, were there to greet me. I was excited to show them my progress. I said something to the effect of, “So that’s that,” after the contraction ended. They smiled and started preparing quietly in the background as I labored. Sky brought me some “Emergen-C” to drink and nurse, Jill, made me some oatmeal. I’d have a contraction and then shove my face with food and drink before another one started.

Emily labors in the bathroom of the birthing center with her partner Kai, before the birth of their daughter, Revira.

Emily labors in the bathroom of the birthing center with her partner Kai.

I went through a few contractions and asked Amy if I could get in the tub. She said she’d rather have me wait a bit to make sure it wouldn’t slow my progress to get in there. So I had about five more contractions and asked again. Now, instead of being mostly silent through them, I had begun moaning a bit. Amy said she’d start to fill the tub and I got more excited. I was in the tub for just a short time when I asked if Kai would join me as I wanted something to push against during a contraction. He didn’t hesitate, as with the entire birth, he calmly did whatever I or the others asked of him. He was collected and encouraging; completely there for me and baby. Within what felt like an hour, but was probably more like two, Amy checked my cervix as I was feeling closer to wanting to push. She found that it was not fully open on one side and kept her hand there during a contraction to see if she could help it move a bit. It didn’t seem to work, but I didn’t get the sense that she was nervous. I was totally in my body and couldn’t feel any outside anxiety or stress in the room. Everyone was calm and reassuring.

Amy told me that if I stuck my finger in just a little bit, I could feel the baby’s head. I hesitated, but put my finger in only about 2 inches. I felt it. How amazing it was to know my body had already brought the baby’s head that far! She could have said how far dilated I was, but instead, letting me feel the head made the progress more real, more encouraging that my body was doing exactly what it needed to be doing.

The contractions continued and were painful, but never unbearable. I breathed through them and would take a cleansing breath through my nose at the end. Sky massaged my legs, Kai put pressure on my back. Jill checked my cervix to confirm what Amy had found. Although they didn’t tell me this at the time, they realized the baby was “occiput posterior” or “sunny side up,” which means she was facing up toward my front rather than toward my back. This position makes pushing a baby out difficult because the very top of the head is against the cervix, instead of the crown, which is smaller. Jill confirmed that although it would take a bit more pushing, my pelvis was able to fit the baby’s head through at this angle.

I’m sure some women would have wanted to know all these details during birth, but I’m happy I wasn’t distracted with measurements, dilations and technical terms. I like that I was told what I needed to know, and what positions I could try rather than how far dilated or what an occiput posterior baby would mean (four hours of pushing for me!)

Amy asked politely if I could get out of the tub and have Amber, the birth center’s resident chiropractor, take a look at my sacrum (my lower back). I was helped onto the bed and Amber laid her hands gently on my back during a contraction. From one contraction she could tell what needed to be adjusted. Kai was standing by my head and held my hand during each contraction. I remember pushing my face into his shorts, which were cool and wet from the tub. I could hear him breathe above all the other noises. In between contractions, I’d try to match his rhythm. I had my eyes closed, but I could feel him looking at me. Most importantly, I could feel his confidence in me, in my body, in our baby, and in the women surrounding us.

Amber adjusted my sacrum with a tool that made a snapping noise, but didn’t hurt a bit. It felt great actually, releasing all the tension in my back. A few more contractions and Amy suggested I go to the bathroom to labor on the toilet or in the shower, anything upright to keep baby moving down. After Amber’s adjustment, each contraction actually felt like the baby was moving further down. I had no urge to stop, wanting each contraction to come, only getting frustrated when they’d pause for longer than a few minutes. I welcomed them into my body, silently telling my baby to descend with each contraction. The pain and intensity was increasing and I told Kai, “If this isn’t transition, I am not sure what is.” Nobody seemed to believe me because I wasn’t howling or asking for drugs or anything of the such.

It wasn’t until everything was done that someone said it probably was transition, looking back. I amazed myself that I could talk through it instead of scream. All the stories we had heard mentioned transition being the time of wanting to give up or give into drugs. Those thoughts never crossed my mind. I trusted my body, and honestly didn’t feel like I had time to think about anything else but remaining focused on each contraction and getting this baby out.

I went to the toilet, which was one of my favorite positions to labor. Not only could I go to the bathroom during a contraction (which would happen whether on the toilet or not), but I could also put my head on the assistance bar behind the toilet which was nice and cool. Then I went to the shower and Amy thought it would be a good idea to have a few contractions squatting. I waited for the burn of her head crowning to begin. I asked everyone how long it would be. Not long was all I could gather, but it still felt like it was taking forever to feel her crown. Amanda, another midwifery apprentice, was to my right, Kai to my left. I sat on the birthing stool in between contractions and squatted down during them, leaning my head on Kai’s. Everyone continued telling me how amazingly well I was doing. I believed them, and agreed. I felt my baby descending, I felt it starting to burn, and finally I saw everyone put on a new pair of rubber gloves. I knew this meant I was close. Jill asked Kai if she could get him a granola bar, to make sure he wouldn’t faint at the sight of things. He accepted.

A few contractions later her head was out and her body slipped out with ease immediately after. I sat on the stool and held her, pink and screaming nicely. She looked amazing and felt warm and soft. I loved it. As soon as I saw her face come out of me, I felt no pain. The rest of the room disappeared except for me, her, and Kai. It was 2:51 p.m., just nine minutes under 12 hours from start to finish.

Kai cut the cord after it was done pulsing. A few minutes later my placenta came out with a lot of blood and I was escorted to the bed to make sure I wasn’t bleeding too much. I felt weak and shaky. Oxygen please. Kai lay next to me holding the baby. Thankfully, within a half hour I was stitched up (from tearing), breastfeeding, and laying in a cozy bed, not bleeding too much. I was happy. The baby was healthy and alert, I was healthy, Kai was the perfect companion for labor, and all the staff at the birth center worked together like a finely tuned machine.

We were alone in the room for a bit and Kai said, “I am so glad we had our baby here instead of a hospital.” Amy, Amanda, Sky, Jill, and Amber were beyond my most wild expectations of what a birth team could be. They worked quietly in the background, but were there when I needed them. Everything they suggested helped. Everything I told them I wanted was upheld. They had reminded me to breathe through my nose, to push with all my energy toward my bottom. It was as if they were so knowledgeable and respectful of the birthing process that they were actually inside of my body with me. They knew exactly what I needed to do to work with my body in bringing this baby out.

Within six hours of birth, we were headed home to our own bed with our 7 pound, 2 ounce (3.23 kilogram for Kai), 19 3/4 inch baby girl, Revira. My baby sleeping on my chest in my bed was perhaps the best feeling I could have ever imagined. She is perfect, and I wouldn’t change a thing about our birth. Thank you Amy, Sky, Amanda, Jill, Amber, Greta, and everyone at Health Foundations; and thank you Kai: of everything we’ve been through, this is by far the most incredible.

Birth Story: “We all have this maternal power~ we just have to believe in it…”

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The birth of baby Raina

Contractions started early in the morning on the 27th of November but never gained momentum – in fact, they stopped for most of the day – until Raina’s big sister Elya went to bed. Around 9:00pm then, I finally laid down and decided to get some sleep. The minute my head hit the pillow, however, my contractions started again. You have got to be kidding me, I remember thinking. I laid there for about an hour, trying to rest since they were only about 20 minutes apart, but eventually went out in to the living room to see my husband, Peter.

Once I was there and sitting on the ball, my contractions got stronger and closer together until eventually we thought, “This is it!” That’s when they spaced out again (around 11pm). I felt incredibly frustrated and worried that this “start-stop” pattern would continue throughout the night! Sensing my exhaustion, Peter kept urging me to lie down and sleep, but I knew that if I could just get my little girl’s head in the right position (pressing down on my cervix) I’d be in “real” labor. I therefore started doing squats during contractions, and in no time, was in full blown active labor, throwing up, and calling the midwives telling them “it was time”. This was around 11:30pm.

We got to Health Foundations birth center at 12:45am on November 28th, 2012 and my contractions were 3 mins apart. The minute I walked in and hugged my doula and friend, Aubrey, I started crying, feeling so grateful that she was there and that soon I would be meeting my baby girl! Amy, my midwife, immediately told me to get in the shower. “Why isn’t she starting the birth tub?” I thought, but brushed it aside and got in anyway; and thank God too, because the water felt amazing! My birth mix started playing (which was made for me by my best friends) making the whole scene surreal and emotional. Tears started streaming down my face, and I even managed to sing along to “Wade in the Water” by Eva Cassidy (in between contractions, mind you). I felt such joy and excitement for what was about to happen, it was unreal.

Finally, Amy and Aubrey told me to get out of the shower and try sitting down. There was NO way that was going to happen since Raina’s head was causing too much pressure, making any other position except standing unbearable. I leaned over the bed then, and put my head on some pillows. I squeezed Peter’s poor hand for the millionth time (he was smart and took off his ring this time) and Aubrey massaged my shoulders and neck, which felt amazing since I had pulled some muscles during contractions; again I started thinking, Why isn’t Amy running the water? I know I’ve got to be close. (Amy told me later that she thought I wasn’t even in active labor yet since I was being so “quiet” and “jovial”).

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Eventually I demanded they fill up the tub so I could get in. I also started telling them that I “couldn’t do this any longer” and that they had to “tell me what to do!” I knew from my actions that I was in transition but didn’t care. I needed my support team to tell me it was almost time to push so I could allow my body to do what it needed to. That’s when my water broke and I threw up again. I knew I was near the end, but since Amy still hadn’t checked my cervix I started doubting my intuition and resisting “the urge”.

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Once in the water, I immediately relaxed. Amy ‘checked me’ and told me Raina’s head was super low (which I was able to feel!) and that I was ‘complete’. What a relief! I thought. She then told me to start pushing with little pushes if I wanted to so I could ease into the “second stage”. This advice was extremely helpful and allowed me to gradually prepare for the “big push”, which eventually came from a source greater than myself – in 3 minutes then, I had my beautiful baby girl in my arms! I started crying, “Oh my God oh my God oh my God!” and kissing Raina’s perfect little head. Peter was crying too, and we kissed and marveled at the beautiful creation we had in front of us.

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Raina was born at 2:23am (7lbs 11oz and 22 inches long) after three hours of incredible and intense labor. It was the most amazing and gratifying birth ever. My first one was amazing too, but this experience had been exactly how I’d wanted it (except for the hope of being able to push without guidance. Nothing is ever perfect with Life.)

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I wouldn’t have had the birth of my dreams without Peter, Aubrey, Amy and Amanda (my midwives) by my side. I am also SO thankful that I now have beautiful and gorgeous pictures (taken by the lovely and wonderful Danica) to remind me of how strong and powerful I am. We all have this maternal power; we just have to believe in it, claim it, and trust in it, so we can fully let go in the welcomings of Life.

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All Photos by Danica Donnelly Photography