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

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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

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.