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: “How do you describe the ultimate miracle?”

The birth of baby Maia

by Jaime Fleres-Mizejewski

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I’m Late

Like many first time moms, I was fairly convinced my baby would greet the world sometime between 37 and 40 weeks and not a day later.  For some reason, I had it in my head that February 14, our due date, was the absolute last day she might arrive.  This, despite knowing first time mamas often deliver beyond their due dates.

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Week 37 came and went as I racked my brain for additional nesting activities—I’d been off work for weeks and there wasn’t another room to paint, rearrange or clean in the whole house! At this time, my intuition shifted too.  Though I was uncomfortably large (with a rockin’ case of pubic symphysis pain) and baby was sometimes uncomfortably active, I had a new feeling she was quite content where she was.  I was unsure she’d ever want to leave her comfortable womb life.  Weeks 38 and 39 came and went.  So did our due date.

IMG_0216Like a slow motion film, the days crept by.  No baby.  Every day felt like Groundhog Day, the same day as the day before… again and again.  At first, I struggled: I was done with winter, done waiting; I was ready to hold my baby, ready to welcome this new chapter of my life.  It was crazy-making to spend every moment of every day prepared for labor and this radical life change to happen at any moment—like knowing an earthquake is going to hit, but not knowing when.

I spent a few days working myself into an anxious mess—I  actually cried through a lunch date, in public, with my hubby.  Nice one, J. I’d hit a low that wasn’t helping anyone and I resolved to forge a new perspective.  So I surrendered.  I simply decided to let it all go—the worry, the desire for control, the expectations, and the detrimental internal dialog.  I stopped telling myself “today is the day,” I stopped expecting labor at any moment, I stopped trying to will labor to begin, I stopped pretending I was in charge.  I just gave my best to surrender and trust in the mystery that is birth.

At about Day 10 post due, we had to start facing the reality that if she didn’t come in the next couple of days, we wouldn’t be able to birth naturally at the birth center.  Though this troubled me deeply, I tried to keep a vice grip on my new chosen outlook.  We had until Thursday February 28 to see if we could get this labor started naturally or we’d be looking at a hospital birth with medical interventions.

Inducing Labor

As of the Friday before, my cervix was showing no sign that labor was coming anytime soon.  We’d spend the weekend taking various natural measures to coax baby into the world (sex, evening primrose oil, taking walks, and acupuncture treatment). No labor.

By Monday morning, my cervix hadn’t changed, so we began the natural induction process.  For 24 hours, I wore a special catheter with two bulbs of water the size of limes pressing on either side of my cervix to help get it to soften and efface (open). The midwives and nurse said that if I opened to 5 cm it would fall out…but it didn’t.  It was an uncomfortable day.

The next morning, Day 12, I was only dilated to 1 or 2 cm, but my cervix had changed some so they removed the catheter and explained the herbal induction regiment I would begin.  This involved taking 4 ounces of castor oil.  The castor oil is meant to irritate the digestive system and so irritate the uterus, ideally prompting the latter into contractions.  I would also be taking some homeopathic medications and an herbal tincture, alternating the two every 15 minutes for 4 hours.

IMG_0247I was very excited and nervous to be starting this induction process, knowing that labor could be just around the corner.  I was advised to take the castor oil with a juice that I wouldn’t mind never drinking again.  I chose grape juice, since the only grape juice I like is called wine.  This combo was like taking a huge swig of motor oil and chasing it with Robitussin.  Yet, I guzzled down the whole concoction like it was a tequila shot and I was back in college.  It could have been worse.  It got worse.  The effect of castor oil is much like the worst food poisoning you’ve ever had.  Within 20 to 30 minutes or so, I met with something akin to Montezuma’s Revenge and spent much of the afternoon getting better acquainted with my bathroom.  It was quite a prelude to labor.

Early Labor

But it did the trick.  After kicking off the induction process at about 1 pm, early labor contractions began coming every 5 minutes by about 2:30 or 3:00 pm.  Billy and I spent the afternoon in our guest bedroom watching movies.  Well, he was in the guest room and I was mostly in the bathroom.  Labor continued through the afternoon.  At about 6 or 7, we went downstairs to cook a pasta carbonara dinner.  I made much of the dinner, stopping every few minutes to brace myself through contractions, which were still coming pretty regularly but were manageable.

After dinner, we returned to our little labor cocoon upstairs.  I spoke with our midwife, who suggested that I take another dose of castor oil (the opposite of what I was hoping to hear!) but in kindness, she cut my dose in half.  By 10pm, contractions had slowed a little bit, with some coming closer to 7 minutes apart, and I worried labor was waning.  But I kept my spirits up.  Billy and I decided to try to rest a little.

Active Labor

By midnight, labor had shifted from early labor contractions to more intense and frequent active labor contractions.  They were coming every one to five minutes, some lasting a minute, some a little less.  They were much more intense than the earlier contractions and required my focused breathing and vocalization to ride each wave.  Billy, half asleep, offered the verbal support I needed to stay confident and in the moment with each new rush.  Like a narcoleptic running a 100-meter dash, I managed to get through the intense physical exertion of a contraction, pass out for a few moments, and be jolted back into wakefulness with the next wave.   This lasted only a brief time, until I was just up, laboring hard, for the next six hours or so. I did well at staying present for each contraction and preventing mind chatter from adding any suffering to the physical pain.  I was just experiencing and witnessing this awesome primal process.

As morning crept up, Billy called our doula, Greta, and they decided together that this would be a good time for her to join us at the house, since labor was definitely progressing.  Until this point, I’d been laboring solely in the side lying position, which felt good and safe, but I wasn’t sure if it was ideal in getting labor to progress.  I really didn’t want to move, which was surprising since I thought I’d be more active through labor.

When Greta arrived, she suggested we try a few other positions.  We went into our bedroom and I got on the big birth/exercise ball.  I didn’t like being upright at all.  The pressure added by gravity was great and the contractions were more difficult to get through.  My mind began to resist, but I tried to trust that this was helping labor progress.  Since it was morning, we decided the shower might be a good change of positions, though Greta warned that it could bring on harder contractions.  It was hard to stand through contractions, so we brought the ball into the shower.  The shower felt great but labor was really intense so the experience was short.

Afterward, Greta suggested I sit on the toilet and labor there for a while, as it was a good position to keep labor rocking.  I did NOT like this!  It was the discomfort of the ball times ten and I felt too exposed and a little scared.  My mind frantically searched for a way out of this experience.  Something.  Anything.  I tried to negotiate with Greta and Billy—if I could just rest on the bed for a few minutes, I’d promise to return to this godforsaken position if we thought my labor was slowing down.  It worked!

Ah, back to the bed, my safe place. Labor only continued to intensify and I was able to remain in my little cocoon, wrapped in towels and blankets, howling like a warrior woman, with Billy and Greta watching over me.  At some point, maybe around 8am, Billy spoke with our midwife Amy.  Because of Billy’s calm demeanor in the face of nearly any event, he might have under-expressed the state of my laboring.  However, once Amy heard me in the background she likely gained a better idea of our progress.  Nevertheless, she suggested I try to eat something and then we would touch base with them again.   Greta, so kindly, spoon-fed me bites of oatmeal between contractions.  At this point, I remember keeping my eyes closed, totally disinterested in food, feeling utterly exhausted and increasingly nauseous.  In retrospect, I realize I was moving into transition.

Oneness

Whilst feeding me oatmeal, Greta intuitively asked if I was experiencing any strong thoughts or feelings I needed to express in order to move forward in labor.  I thought about it for a moment.  I could feel my dad’s presence very strongly at that time (he is in spirit) and I tried to communicate an ineffable experience.  I commented, “I know this is going to sound crazy, but I don’t just feel my dad around me, in some weird sense, I feel like I am my dad.” This sense of oneness with him makes perfect sense to me—not only were my dad and I really close, but I felt I was experiencing the same utter surrender and need for support in labor that he experienced with his cancer.  I understood him perfectly in that moment.

In the early days with Maia, I also experienced this same sense of oneness with her—like I understood her from the inside and that we were the same person in some way (which I suppose we’d been for quite some time!).  Of course, these oneness experiences all unfolded during the process of my bringing forth a separate being from my single body.  So, in a way it makes sense.  Birth offers a glimpse into the Mystery and an experience of Truth, in this case that we truly are all one, which is often just a pretty concept in my mind.

Transition

Anyhow, labor started to ramp up once again and it felt like my contractions didn’t end—they just went from a ten down to a seven and then back up again.  I was deep in a place within, tapping my inner reserves for all the strength and energy I could muster.  As things got really hazy (And loud!), I experienced something new: pushing.  At least two of my contractions on our guest bed went from “regular” squeezing contractions to all-out involuntary pushing.

“I’m pushing, you guys!” I was surprised and for a moment thought for sure I was going to deliver this baby right there on the bed!  I actually reached down to see if I could feel her head.  It felt that close.

It was really time for us to go.  But that was the very last thing I wanted to do.  The idea of actually getting up and going somewhere seemed ridiculous if not completely impossible.  “Please just call the midwives and ask them to come over,” I begged. They had to come to us; there was just no way I could move.  Despite my certain belief that I was immobile, I had such full trust in Greta and Billy that I complied when they insisted we go to the birth center.  They swore that I could do this.  I had to do this.

During pregnancy, the transition phase of labor made me nervous—I’d heard it was one of the most challenging times in labor, those moments when you were most likely to feel defeated, if not certain you were going to die.  And here I was looking at the prospect of actually getting in the car and travelling to a new place during this phase of labor.  Birth brings you right into your fears, forces you to look them dead in the eye, and offers you a chance to move through them.  When I knew that I needed to go (and go now!) I rallied and did what I needed to do.  I decided that after a contraction subsided a little, I needed to run downstairs and out to the car.  I was completely paralyzed during contractions, so this was the only way it would work.

Greta and Billy somehow dressed me, and I was ready to make a dash.  I only made it to the back door, before a contraction forced me to collapse on the floor for a couple minutes or more.  After it slowed down, I jolted up and ran through the backyard’s bright morning sunshine, hoping to at least make it to the car before another one started.  Just barely.  I jumped in the car, pushed the seat all the way back, and another double overhead transition wave came crashing all around me.  This one lasted, no exaggeration, the entire 5 to 7 minute ride to the birth center.  It just never let up.  I didn’t think, I just howled like mad through the contraction and hoped that the baby didn’t pop out on the floor.  Once we arrived at the birth center, I had a moment’s break to run to the door, through the reception area, into the birth room and on to the bed.  I barely made it.

At the Birth Center

We arrived sometime just before 10 am. Through a hazy half-glance, I saw Jill, our fabulous nurse, prepping to check my cervix.  “Jill, you better tell me I’m at a ten,” I muttered.  She checks and chuckles, “Oh yeah, you are there sweetheart.”  It was time for me to push (some more!).

I had a few more super intense contractions on the bed, as people came in and out of the room, preparing for the birth.  I was happy to see the familiar faces of Amy, Amanda, and Monica, our midwives, and I felt complete trust and peace in the situation.  I was in good hands and right where I needed to be.

Water Birth

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They drew a bath and suggested I get in for the pushing part of labor.  I was happy for this choice, as I wanted to deliver in water if it was a good option for us.  Though it felt a little scary to move, I made my way to the tub and got on all fours.  I labored like this for a while, as contractions turned to full force pushing.  Everyone was around me; encouraging me and helping me focus my energy during each intense wave.  Pushing is no joke; it’s like trying to move a mountain.  I resolved to give it every ounce of my strength and energy, giving way more than I ever knew I had.  Like contractions before, I had a good couple minute break to gather my strength in between each pushing wave.

My water broke in this position, and the team told me there was meconium in the water.  Meconium is poop the baby released in the womb, which can impede their airways as they take their first breaths.  Amanda calmly explained that it was going to be okay, they were going to suction her right away to clear her airways and then they’d hand her over to me.

maiabirth_0011I changed positions another two times, once to a reclined position the long way in the tub, with my hands bracing myself up and my legs spread.  (Fantastic birth tub, by the way!) Then, Amanda suggested I get into that same position the short way in the tub, so I could really open my pelvis and bring my legs up.  I was in this position for another half a dozen or so pushes, I think, before Maia was born.  Those last couple of pushing waves were the ultimate finale to labor—I gave everything I could and tried my hardest to push her out quickly but not too fast.  Greta later told me she felt like I had this amazing protective energy surrounding me and that I was in a deep place somewhere slightly removed.  Looking back, it feels like one of those dreams where you are hovering above your body watching things happen to you.

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I was able to reach down and feel Maia’s head a few minutes before she was born.  It was indescribable.  I held her, crowning, between a set of pushes, which the midwives said would help my tissues stretch.  I remember my strongest motivator at this moment was Billy—I could hear the joy in his voice as he caught the first glimpses of his daughter and I wanted so badly to give him the experience of seeing her.  It was a selfless and pure wish for him.

Maia is born

maiabirth_0021I pushed her out with the next wave.  Maia was born at about 11:11 am on Wednesday February 27, 2013.  It was an intense physical experience, but I was in the haze.  This haze makes it hard to describe with accuracy what happened next—and so many things seemed to happen all at once.

I remember seeing Amanda holding Maia up by her feet.  Maia was crying.  I didn’t see but I know they suctioned her.  Also, the umbilical cord burst when Maia was born, sending blood all over the place.  They clamped it, and before I knew it she was on my chest.

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I don’t know if I have words to describe the feeling of first holding Maia.  I mean, how do you describe the ultimate miracle?  It was pure joy, and awe, and wonder; I loved her instantly and intensely.  She was more beautiful than I could imagine.  I was meeting someone I’d waited my whole life to love.

Little Emergency

But the tub seemed to be getting darker and darker with blood, so they asked me to hand Maia to dad and get out of the tub.  I was still completely in the Birth Fog, so I just followed other’s directions without much thought.  But as soon as I got out of the tub, saw blood pouring all around me, and the flurry of action on part of the birth team, some distant part of me became a bit concerned.  As they helped me to a birth stool, I recall asking if everything was going to be okay, but the Fog blocked true worry from my mind.  I birthed my placenta, but my uterus had a hard time contracting as is necessary to avoid excessive blood loss.  I was bleeding profusely. So I received the full treatment—a couple of injections in my thigh and a gritty pill in my mouth, lots of painful pushing on my belly, buckets being filled with blood and tissue—and after a while, the hemorrhage emergency seemed to subside.  (Thanks to the competence and quick action of the birth team.  Total rock stars.)  This experience scared the bejeses out of poor Billy.

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Holding new life

I was helped to the bed and — after a little more serious pushing on my uterus to ensure the bleeding has ceased — I got to hold Maia again.  After that, she was really all I could focus on.  I was so exhausted and weak but I just wanted to hold and discover her.  Greta helped me learn how to nurse her and we worked on different holds for a while.  Maia was a fantastic and eager nurser from that very first try.  I am so grateful for that.  Billy and I snuggled in to stare in wonder at our new little love.

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The things going on around me are a little blurry in my memory.  I recall Amanda bringing over the placenta and showing it to us (she later encapsulated it for us).  I recall Amy telling me lots of important and helpful information I instantly forgot :).  I remember Greta offering me a tropical tasting drink and more water.  I ate pizza from Pizza Luce.  They gave Maia her first physical exam and she was healthy as could be (though they heard a heart murmur that would resolve itself in a matter of days).  Maia weighed eight pounds exactly and was 20 inches long.  She had a good cry from the start.

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I soon discovered another cause of my profuse bleeding—I had torn badly—through my inner and outer labia and a little on my perineum.  Apparently Maia stuck her hand up by her head as she was making her grand entrance and it ripped through my tissues.  Amanda also told me her head had rotated around as she came out of the birth canal, creating a wider space upon passage.  Amy spent at least an hour stitching me up—it took at least 40 stitches to get the job done.  She did a great job. This birth was beautiful but very physically taxing.

maiabirth_0079In all, we stayed at the birth center about 5 hours after the birth.  We left at about 4:30 in the afternoon and headed home.  We had great hopes of sleeping soon, as we were told babies usually sleep 6 to 8 hours at home after the birth.  Well, she didn’t exactly get this message until the next morning.  Eventually, after lots of exhausted activity I cannot really recall, we slept from about 4am to maybe 10am, the longest stint of sleep we’d have for weeks to come.

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But alas, our beautiful baby girl is in the world.  We had an amazingly beautiful birth experience and came out stronger than I thought possible.  Billy was so proud of me in the coming days; it was the greatest feeling in the world.  Maia and I did it.  We did it together surrounded in love and support from some truly remarkable people.  It doesn’t get any better than that.  I am so grateful.

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Most photos by: EyeSpy Photography