Clover's Birth Journey

What an incredible journey this experience has been, and continues to be; pregnancy, birth, parenting. I am so excited to share Clover’s journey with anyone who will listen!

I suppose the story begins a few years ago, (~2012) when Romain and I were on a drive up north, and I, after having an on-again/off-again conversations about baby names, suggested the name Clover for a girl we might have one day.

“I love it,” he said, “Will it bother you that it’s the brand name of milk that we buy?”

Ha! Hadn’t thought. “No, not at all!”

And our drive continued.

Flash forward to 2014, we prepare for our May wedding, and Romain and I discuss starting to try for a family as soon as the wedding is over. “I’m sure as soon as we try, it’s going to happen,” he said. I thought, yeah right, men always seem to think they have super-sperm. I’d had friends try for years and was ready to put in some time trying before we became pregnant.

But after our June honeymoon, I found myself in a yoga class during the end-of-class shavasana, when a very clear GIRL’S voice came into my head, “I’m here, I’m with you, and I’m here to stay…you’re stuck with me!” Tears came streaming down my cheeks as I did some math in my head… yes, I could be pregnant, in fact I might even actually already be a little late. Trying not to get ahead of myself, I told Romain we’d take a pregnancy test the following day.

Upon taking the pregnancy test and seeing it’s positive sign, I showed it to Romain who said “Yeah.”

“Yeah?!” I said.

“Yeah, I’m not surprised!” he said with a smile.

I guess he’d been right… I did get pregnant as soon as we started trying!

“Do you want to go to the beach?” he asked.

Still in shock, amazement, awe, I thought, ‘Well, I guess so… why not!?’ So off we went and marveled at the fact that our child was currently the size of a granule of sand on the vast ocean beach.

We decided to work with Maria mostly because of her directness - I felt she’d be great in an emergency, something you obviously want when having a home birth. We had the monthly visits, which turned into bi-weekly visits, which turned into weekly visits as we got closer to our due date. I also received concurrent care at UCSF which was easy and I found UCSF to be VERY supportive of homebirth, and of Maria in particular. EVERY SINGLE TIME I went in, the midwife on staff would see in my chart that I was planning a homebirth and would say, “You’re in great hands with Maria.” Not that I needed the reassurance, but it never hurts to hear this from hospital staff!

While we didn’t want to find out if we were having a boy or a girl, I started to believe we were probably having a boy (Romain refused to speculate on our child’s gender!) First, the ultrasound technician, who had told us to “look away” while she maneuvered her wand over the disclosing area during our ultrasound, said, “It’s a good thing you’re looking away!” I was convinced this meant she’d let it slip that we were having a boy. People on the street kept telling me I looked like I was carrying a boy as well (due to the old wive’s tale that if you carry more “in the font” it’s a boy.) Romain and I had a girl name clearly chosen, but couldn’t settle on a boy’s name, and I was convinced that this would mean we’d surely have a boy since naming him would be harder. For all these reasons, I thought it was probably a boy, but I never forgot my original experience of hearing that little girl tell me I was pregnant with her in that yoga class!

So finally, it was the evening of Wednesday February 18th (Romain’s mother’s birthday) and I found myself unable to get some persistent back pain to go away. I try to sleep, and accomplish to get some, but frankly, sleep in the last few months of pregnancy was never easy, and this night was no different. I woke at 2:00am with a contraction, but I was able to go back to sleep. Then at 5:00am, I woke with a contraction, and they kept coming, every 15-20 minutes. Once Romain woke up, I told him that I’d been having contractions for a little while, and while I didn’t want to get too ahead of myself, I’d feel better if he worked from home. I texted my music students and said I’d be unable to teach as I was experiencing what I hoped to be early labor.

The contractions continued every 15-20 minutes for an hour or two, then they’d move to 10 minutes, then 5-6 minutes, and back to 15-20. It continued like this for all of Thursday, but I knew that since my water hadn’t broken, hadn’t lost my mucus plug or had any bloody show, that I’d need to hold off on calling Maria or my doula Lucy. I took a bath or two, and generally tried to distract myself by watching TV, reading, listening to hypnobirthing tapes or talking to Romain, all the while pausing to breathe and move through contractions.

Thursday night continued as had Thursday day…meaning I continued to have contractions every 15-20 minutes for the majority of the night, occasionally they spaced out to every 30-45 minutes. I got one spurt of 88 minutes of sleep and it felt AMAZING! 

Friday morning contractions continued, and then at one point really backed off. I was starting to get frustrated and tired at this point, since it had been more than 24 hours with meandering contractions, and now it was backing OFF! I wanted it to increase and get GOING! So I suggested to Romain that we walk to lunch in Cole Valley, to try and get my contractions to start again. This seemed to do it! By the time we got to Crepes On Cole, I had to stand every 5 minutes or so to endure a contraction in the restaurant. Luckily, I wasn’t making a scene, but I’m SURE any mother in the place who might have observed me sit (uncomfortably) for 5 minutes and then stand and kneel on the chair (trying to look as normal as possible) would have absolutely known I was in early labor. We walked back home, all uphill, and Romain noted that I was stopping more and more frequently. We got back to the hose and sure enough, contractions were every 5-6 minutes consistently.

I think we called our doula Lucy at this point (not entirely sure) and she said she’d plan to stay the night in San Francisco with her parents in case things accelerated (she lives in Oakland). I was still growing increasingly frustrated that I hadn’t had any of the markers of “progression” - no mucus plug (I’d been checking for days), no bloody show, and no water breaking. I went to bed at some point, probably around 10:30/11:00pm, and continued to track my contractions on my iPad next to the bed. I knew they were growing closer together, but still didn’t want to get ahead of myself. But by the time Romain came to bed around midnight, he checked and saw that I’d been having contractions every 2-3 minutes for more than an hour. “I’m calling everyone” he said definitively.

Lucy and Maria arrived at the same time around 1:00am and I was so glad they were there…finally someone could maybe give me news about my progress. Maria checked me and said I was at 3cm with a bulging bag of water. She set up her stuff (I hadn’t realized how much equipment she’d bring with her! I felt even more confidence knowing she had so much stuff to facilitate the birth as crazy as that sounds). And then, Maria promptly went to sleep in our second bedroom, saying to wake her if there was significant change. Romain set up the birth tub, did some other things (so he tells me and of which I have no recollection) and then he himself slept for a bit (only 1 1/2 hours he tells me, though it felt like he was asleep the entire night!). Lucy stayed up with me as I labored through the night. Thankfully, I had my bloody show during this time with Lucy, I vomited once or twice, and both were welcomed signs of progress along with continuing contractions.

Romain woke at 5:00am and helped by reading me my birth affirmations, snapping some photos (including one of our cat, Hemingway, who was spending time near me during the labor), encouraging me to drink after each surge, and generally just spending time with me. He tried pressing on my back as Lucy had been doing, but at some point I said very directly, “Only Lucy!” You just can’t replicate the talent of a doula who touches HUNDREDS of women during labor and knows exactly how to help you. The two of them were INCREDIBLE though, working together extremely well and both getting me to drink, and taking care of everything without disturbing me while I was in my zone.

When Maria woke at 7:00am, she asked how things had gone during the night, and all I remember is telling her I SO wanted to get into the birth tub, but was afraid of slowing down the labor. (I’d read that if you get in before you’re in active labor, you can slow early labor down). But, Maria said that since it’d been 48 hours of “early” labor at this point and I was really tired, that getting in the tub might be the ticket to giving me a bit of rest and boosting my energy. So I climbed in and indeed my labor did slow down, but in a wonderful way that did indeed allow me to regain some energy. Maria actually asked me if I was still having surges…um, yeah! can’t she tell!? I thought to myself. I guess my birth breathing practicing was really helping me stay calm and cool during this period. Maria actually told me to alert her when I started and ended a contraction so she could track them.

“This still looks like early labor Sarah,” she said. I was probably only in the tub for less than an hour, and I started to sense/fear that Maria might leave and go about her Saturday, telling me she’d come back when it was further along.

“You’re not going to leave me are you?” I almost pleaded.

“Well…do you not want me to go?” she half chuckled, seeming to realize I’d sensed what she was thinking.

“No”

“Then I’ll stay…but do you think you can spare me for 2 hours this morning for a doctor’s appointment? I’ll leave at 9:00 and come back at 11:00am”

“Ok,” I said. I thought I could handle that.

“So OK then Sarah,” she said, “I want you to get out of the tub and either lay down and try to sleep between contractions, or walk the stairs in your building and really try to get things moving.”

I’d had the hardest time lying down during my labor, because while I could maybe sleep between contractions (for mere minutes), the pain of the surges was much greater when I was lying down. So I took to spending most all of my labor bending over things; either on hands and knees leaning over the bathtub, hands and knees leaning on the couch, hands and knees leaning over our coffee table, or standing but leaning over our entry hall table, over the bed, over the back of the couch. As the labor progressed, I needed Lucy to put constant pressure on my back during contractions.

Even still, I told Maria I’d try to lie down. I chose our futon in the second bedroom because our bed was too soft and I felt exacerbated the pain. So she left at 9:00am, and about 5 minutes after she left, my water FINALLY broke while I was lying down with Romain spooning me, and I immediately vomited again, more violently than before. Thank god, I thought, actual signs of progress! Lucy called Maria who said, “OK, just call me again if she has the urge to push.”

I got up and walked to the bathroom with a puppy pad under me but was derailed by a contraction and found myself on hands and knees on the bathroom floor. Lucy got in my face at this point and said, “In my experience, things will pick up greatly now.” BOY WAS SHE RIGHT!

The contractions I’d experienced for 2 days were tough, and I’d felt my uterus getting VERY tired. (That sounds strange…it’s like saying “My colon feels tired”…you never knew you could feel fatigue in this part of your body, but my uterus was definitely fatigued at this 48+ hour mark). That being said, once my water broke, during what I now consider transition, it was an entirely different level of sensation (read: pain). My breathing exercises were no longer as useful, though I tried to continue to use them. Before, I’d been able to control the sensation, more-or-less, through my birth breathing I’d so religiously practiced. But after my water broke, I could start off a surge with my birth breathing, but just like analogy everyone uses of a wave, the wave of the surge just took me with it and I could no longer control my breathing nor the sounds I was making.

I got into the birthing tub again without asking anyone if it was ok, and on hands and knees leaning over the edge, endured each contraction as Lucy pressed on my back. As a surge would end, she’d walk 5 feet away to get me coconut water or an ice cube, and I’d begin the next contraction and say,  “Luuuuccccyyyyy!!!” And she’d come back and push on my back, abandoning the task of getting more water. (Though between Romain and Lucy, they pretty much made me drink after each contraction, which I begrudgingly obliged them.) I’d say the contractions were coming every 1 or 1.5 minutes at this stage, but I don’t really know. I’d start the contraction moaning low, and then crescendo into a higher-pitched yell and Lucy behind me would begin moaning low herself, and I’d emulate her.

At one point, I decided to moan, “This is hoooorrriiibbbllleee” at the peak of a contraction. Interestingly enough, this made the contraction EXPONENTIALLY harder…shows you what power your own thoughts have on your body. So after the contraction finished I was gasping for air and whispered/mumbled, “I mean, this is awesome.” Romain and Lucy laughed, though I wasn’t trying to be funny.

I knew it must be getting close to 11:00…

“What time is it? When is Maria coming back?”

“She’ll be here soon”

I worried that since I had some concept of time (something I’d always been told you lose track of during birth) that I actually wasn’t progressing as much as I thought I had.

But this has got to be “it”…right? I mean, I am already starting to push without trying…I’ve got to be close!

“I can’t do this for very long,” I said sometime near 11:00am, feeling myself close to the limit of what my body could handle. I thought to myself, The alternative to doing this here, in the tub at home, means getting in a car…there is LITERALLY NO POSSIBLE WAY I could do that. Like, it’s physically impossible to move from where I am right now. This thought ended as the next contraction hit.

Shortly after 11:00am, Maria came back, and with one look at me, she basically said, “See, now you know why I was calling the other stuff ‘early’ labor!” She’s right, this was a totally different animal!

She asked if I wanted to start pushing.

I said I already had started.

She checked me and said I only had a lip of cervix left, and that if I kept pushing it would probably dilate itself away.

She called the backup midwife to come.

Hallelujah! I knew we must be getting close if she was calling the backup!

Romain asked if he could catch the baby, so Maria asked me if I wanted Romain to get into the tub with me. I said “no,” only because thinking about the logistics of how that would happen was much too much for me in the moment. Thankfully, as I got closer to birthing our child, Maria simply said, “Romain, if you want to catch your baby you had better get into the water!”

(Side note: Romain was all too happy to rescind his job up until that point - scooping poop out of the water after each contraction!)

Maria got up in my face and said, “My only stipulation for birthing in the water is that you have to be on your back.” Oh great, I thought. That’s the most painful position! But I was encouraged to know that the baby must be coming soon!

At one point, Romain turned to Maria and said, “Is that the head?!” and I remember thinking… WHAT ELSE DO YOU THINK I’M PUSHING OUT OF ME RIGHT NOW?!

We were playing my “Chill” playlist, which included a live Bob Marley concert. Maria said, “Is this really the music you want your baby to be born to?”

“I don’t care,” I gasped.

But then, in the back of my consciousness, I realized a very loud cover of “Sexual Healing” was playing and thought, Huh, well that is kind of unfortunate.  Luckily Lucy just got up and changed it without anyone asking.

So instead of “Sexual Healing,” our baby girl was born to Billy Joel’s “Piano Man,” right next to our piano in our little apartment! Romain caught her, put her on my chest, and he began crying immediately - something very powerful for me as he hadn’t even cried at our wedding! (He later said he’d been chocking back tears watching me for the last 2 hours of labor, so when she was born he just let it all go.)

I was instructed out of the tub onto the birthing stool, to wait for the placenta to deliver. After 5 minutes our baby was still quite blue and I heard Sue Baelen, our extraordinary backup midwife, say, “OK Maria, I think we either need to give the baby some oxygen or Sarah needs to do mouth-to-mouth.” As scary as this sounds (and it apparently did scare Romain) I wasn’t scared. I had full faith in our team and had read enough birth stories to know that this happens fairly frequently.

Since they laid the baby out on my knees (while they suctioned mucus out of her lungs and gave her some oxygen), I used the opportunity to look between her little legs.

“It’s a little girl!” I said to Romain.

“I know!” he said. “I already saw ;)”

After I delivered the placenta, we were whisked into our bed, so the 3 of us could continue to bond as a new family. Our team emptied the birth tub, cleaned up, and made us food. They were with us for 3 hours!

All in all it was a incredible experience, and I feel so lucky we were able to bring our daughter Clover into the world, into our home, in this calm, natural way. I highly recommend homebirth to anyone who has the desire for such an extraordinary, real, raw, emotional experience…I wouldn’t change any piece of it for the world!

Addendum: I wrote this about 3 weeks after Clover was born, but only got around to sending it to Maria 6 months later. I get comments every.single.day about how smiley Clover is and how calm and confident she seems. I know some of this is due to the fact that she is just an awesome little person in her own right, but I have to think that some (if not a lot) of it is due to her birth. In my heart of hearts, I can’t imagine a better gift to give your child on their very first birth-day, than an unmedicated entrance into the world. I feel so very lucky that we were able to do so.

Posted on September 9, 2015 .

Nate's Birth Story

  

Nate was born at home on December 2, 2013 towards the end of one of Maria’s great “Birth Quakes” – the seventh or maybe eighth baby to arrive in just over a week.

Nate was born at home on December 2, 2013 towards the end of one of Maria’s great “Birth Quakes” – the seventh or maybe eighth baby to arrive in just over a week. 

Our entire humbling journey brought to light the mystical powers at work during pregnancy and birth:

Mystery 1 – The Scare in Manila

Just one day after I found out I was pregnant, I boarded a plane for a long work trip, traveling first to Cambodia, then Singapore, then the Philippines. By the second week I was starting to feel pregnant. My first craving (raw green beans) struck on a small ferry in the Philippines. My first bout of nausea came later that day over a plate of fried fish. Then, in a hotel room in Manila, just a few days before I was supposed to come home, I started to bleed.  Maria, who had not even seen me yet, responded to my worried email:  “Usually this all goes away, but truth is that the first 12 weeks is the miscarriage zone. Unfortunately, right now it's just wait and see. But stay hydrated, eat well, rest. Keep in touch if things get heavier.” That night, alone on the other side of the world, I put my hands on my stomach and tried to focus deep inside to connect with our baby. I meditated over and over: “We want you, we want you, please stay.” The bleeding stopped.

Mystery 2 – The Hemorrhoid, My Teacher

I had a “perfect” pregnancy from that point on. Strong vitals. Good energy. My belly grew and our baby moved into the “optimal” fetal position.  As if someone were keeping score, I felt very pleased to be earning top marks as an A+ pregnant mama.  Then, at 36 weeks, I got the hemorrhoid. It happened on my last big day of work commitments.  After 14 hours of meetings, driving all over the Bay Area in a tent-like dress and maternity pantyhose, finally I came home at 10 pm, utterly exhausted, constipated and done. And there it was. My reaction was violent: I felt furious. I was so close to the end of pregnancy and now my “perfect score” was ruined. I dragged Dave to 24-hour Walgreens for witch hazel pads, then sat on the toilet in disgust and read about hemorrhoids online. On WebMD: “Too much pressure on the veins in the pelvic and rectal area causes hemorrhoids.” Slowly I realized my body was under too much pressure – from the pregnancy, from my last big push at work, from the weight of my expectations. And now this one little part of me had given out.  Suddenly it was obvious: I needed to love the hemorrhoid. I needed to take care of it.  I needed to take care of myself and accept whatever might happen. So I did. In a weird way, it was a defining moment. As I went to bed, I felt a new sense of peace with the process. In the morning the hemorrhoid was gone. I can’t say exactly how this lesson affected Nate’s birth, but I know it was extremely important.

Nate’s Arrival

People in my family often share birthdays. I was born on my uncle’s birthday. My cousin was born on my mom’s birthday. So we were curious to see whether our baby, due December 5 or thereabouts, would be born on his uncle’s birthday (December 2) or his aunt’s birthday (December 12). I was hoping for the former and, amazingly, Nate did not disappoint. 

Just a few days before his arrival, Thanksgiving stood out as a final milestone on our calendar – possibly our very last weekend “alone” for some time. We shut out the world. At 39 weeks pregnant I was grateful for the chance to be lazy. That Sunday afternoon, December 1, we ate a huge slow-cooker feast. Then – as if under a magic spell – we both drifted off into a deep sleep on our sofa. Dave’s hand rested on my belly.  We woke up a few hours later as the sun began to set.

When I woke up, I felt restless.  Suddenly nothing could hold my attention. I couldn’t wait any longer for our baby to be born. I spent a frustrated hour on my laptop researching the statistical delivery dates of first-time mothers. Eventually Dave decided to eat dinner but the idea disgusted me.

At 9 pm I convinced Dave that we should go for a walk to get some fresh air before bed. The night was quiet and cold. I was so glad to stretch my legs. We started walking and talking. I didn’t want a water birth but nonetheless I was worried about not having a birth tub. Dave was very patient with me. He agreed to redouble our efforts to track down one of Maria’s spare tubs.

We walked for more than 3 miles under the starry winter sky. I started to feel some cramping but nothing noteworthy. Still, when we got home, I decided to take a warm bath to relieve the heaviness of my enormous belly. It was nearly midnight when we went to sleep.

The surges woke me up at 1:30 am. My first thought was that I must have overdone it on our walk. Then I noticed the rhythm…squeezing…then easing up.  Dave asked if I was all right. I don’t remember answering him, but once I was in the bathroom I discovered an unmistakable pinkish goop.  With a mix of panic and joy, I called out: “Mucus plug!”  

I had to repeat this to a disbelieving Dave once I crawled back into bed. Remembering the lessons from our birth class, we tried to go back to sleep. I thought if I ignored the squeezing, it might go away for a few hours. We turned out the lights and Dave rolled over. I tried to get settled on my side again, but now I could not lie still.  The squeezing continued to grip and release.  After twisting around for a few minutes, I ended up on my hands and knees with my head buried in the pillow, moaning softly and rocking back and forth. I thought this was working well, but Dave rolled over again. He looked at me and said matter-of-factly:  “We’re not going back to sleep.” 

So that was that.  We turned on the lights. I started pacing uncomfortably around our apartment while Dave switched the sheets and gathered the birth supplies. He downloaded a contraction timer on his phone.  We weren’t supposed to call Maria until the magic 4-1-1: surges four minutes apart, one minute long, for one hour.  My surges were coming every 2 or 3 minutes, each lasting about 45 seconds. I leaned on our bed for one surge, then trudged to our sofa for the next one, then shuffled back to our bed, over and over, constantly moving and moaning, like a pregnant zombie. Dave followed me. Sometimes I leaned on him and we swayed together.

I had borrowed an affirmation from one of my favorite Ina May Gaskin birth stories: “I’m going to get HUGE.” I tried to keep my throat soft and open, my breathing slow and steady, imagining my cervix as wide as a dinner plate. I had also written a breathing mantra on notecards pinned to the wall (Huge Open Baby Down Yes Love Come Now), which I recited in my head until it became too complicated. Then I just thought (inhale) HUGE (exhale) OPEN. I felt a distinct shift after one big surge and wondered, “Maybe my cervix just opened the first centimeter?” – like an ancient door that was stuck, requiring a strong shoulder to make it budge. In retrospect, I believe that one surge popped open my cervix several centimeters all at once. Not long afterwards I felt a cold wave of nausea floating down from a surge, like seasickness. Before the next surge lifted me up again I was on my hands and knees vomiting in the bathroom. Vomiting was a huge relief, but it was followed shortly afterward by an irrepressible urge to bear down.

It was 4:30 am. I had been in labor for three hours.  Our doula Dina had given us a chart of labor signs, which Dave was studying in the kitchen. He decided to call Maria. For some reason I was surprised to hear that she was coming to check on me.  I was leaning against our sofa, swaying and looking out into the darkness when I saw her car pull up to the stop sign. She peered over her steering wheel and turned onto our street. I flashed on a thought of Maria getting out of her bed so many times, for so many mothers, making her way to a birth in the dark. Now she was coming to me.  Just being so aware of her arrival seemed like a discouraging sign. I felt too much like myself.

Then she was with us and I got the news:  8 centimeters!   Maria went back out to her car to get her bags.  She was going to stay. She started making phone calls.  Our baby was coming soon!  I felt incredulous and incredible all at once. I texted my mom on the east coast and she sent encouragement.

Then the real work started.  If I kept moving, the sensations were bearable, so for the next four hours I continued my zombie march up and down the hall with occasional monitoring from Maria. Our baby’s heartbeat was steady and strong – all was well. I felt so grateful. Every time I heard that solid little heartbeat, chugging away, I tried to connect with our baby to say thank you and reassure him or her that everything was okay with me, too.

Later, someone arrived while I was sitting backwards on the toilet. Birth cave mentality had set in: I did not like hearing our front door open. But soon the mystery woman’s hands pressed my lower back and I felt a rush of warmth to greet Sue, our assisting midwife. Then our doula Dina arrived directly from her early morning yoga class. It was 7 am, the sun was coming up, and our whole team was with us. 

By now the pressure was strong.  Maria checked me again, but I was still 8 centimeters. Gently she nudged my cervix with her finger and I stretched to 9 centimeters. My waters broke while being examined on the bed – perfectly clear!  Another milestone.  All was well.  I sent a silent message to our baby: thank you for trusting this process.

Still, a tiny edge of cervix remained. Maria decided we should change course. She was worried the pressure of bearing down would cause it to swell, so she instructed me to spend the next hour relaxing and breathing through each surge without pushing.

The word “hour” was a reality check. The surges were no longer simply peaking and melting away. Each one was followed by a heavy sinking sensation, like a bowling ball inside, barreling down, down, down... The task was impossible. I spent some time in a warm shower while Dave and Dina reminded me to breathe lightly. I tried not to push, but I sounded something like this: “Whew, whew, whew, oh god I really want to push, I WANT TO PUSHRRGRRGHH URRGRRRRGGH, whew, whew, whew…"  

Meanwhile a breakfast party was taking place in the kitchen. Sue had ransacked our fridge to make a skillet of eggs and leftovers. Knowing I was getting close, she sent Dave and Dina with a bowl of chicken broth and plate of honey toast for me. In between surges, I ate a small triangle of honey toast and drank some water. I also ate a honey stick, but that’s another story.  

The surges had become huge.

At this dark point I was alone in labor. Only I could do the work.

I fell back on a memory from years ago in Brazil, swimming for hours before a storm, ocean and sky blending together with no horizon. Drifting, unable to touch sand, fighting panic at the sight of each monster wave rolling in. Now it seemed my survival depended on finding the same focus, swimming out to meet each surge, diving through rather than getting caught unaware and underneath.  

Finally, after an unknown amount of time in the surf, I got the clearance from Maria: 10 centimeters!

The active pushing stage of labor surprised me. Having just come through transition, I hadn’t really visualized grunting and exerting so much energy at this point. In fact, I dreamed that maybe gravity and the baby would do most of the work while I just reclined on some pillows. Ha!

By now it was 9:30 am. I felt like I had been swimming in the ocean all night. I was tired, so everyone helped me settle sideways on the bed – my life raft – so I could rest between the surges. No longer giant waves, more like sirens, a stampede: Up, go, NOW!  They were relentless. In between I was nearly asleep, only vaguely aware of the voices around me. Dina dabbed my brow with a cool washcloth. My pillow was damp. I tried to relax completely until another surge came: UP, NOW, PUSH!  Together Dina and Dave lifted up my top leg as I pushed. I remember thinking that it would have been impossible to lift my own leg like that, and it was also nearly impossible to ask them for help. Thank goodness they were there and they understood. Maria coached me on how to curve my body and direct the energy as I pushed and pushed with every muscle in me. It didn’t feel intuitive to me. I felt the pressure but I couldn’t really feel any progress. I needed everyone’s help so much.

My mind did funny things at this point. I realized our baby was going to be born in that room. I was doing this thing I had dreamed about doing for so long. After so many months of wondering what birth would feel like, craving this sacred feminine experience, now I had it! Good for me. Without any sarcasm, I actually thought, “I never need to do this again.”

At another point my mind scanned my body for options. I was lying on my own bed, in my own bedroom, thinking maybe this would end shortly in a C-section, or maybe I would be the first woman to figure out another way to give birth, even while realizing that was ridiculous.

Maria and Sue could feel the top of our baby’s squishy head inside of me. They told me to reach down to feel it, too. Very strange: some hair, some gelatinous thing… A brain? 

Lying on my side, I could see Dave’s face.  We had joked that maybe he should avoid the “business end” of birth. But now, after so many hours, he couldn’t look away.  Our baby was getting closer. I was tired, but I could watch Dave’s expression with each push.  His face held so much emotion: love, amazement, fear, like an entire stadium of die-hard fans up on their feet, holding their breath, waiting for a miracle, imminent victory… Watching his face gave me the extra motivation to push on, push harder, each time.

I decided I wanted to stand up. Birth was close. It seemed right. I hadn’t planned on giving birth lying down. It was challenging to get up again – we had to time it just right – but soon I was standing with my feet apart, my arms around Dave’s neck, sinking into each final push. I was making some powerful noise.  Dina suggested chanting “Out!” so we did, all five of us together.

Maria was down there. Things were happening.  She instructed me to lift up one leg onto the bed in a lunge. She wanted me to get wider. I did it. I pushed again. (“Out!”) 

Maria told me to give two more good pushes, then get back on the bed on my side.  The baby was coming quickly. She said we needed to slow things down or I might tear. That was good motivation.

So I crawled back onto the bed with an entire human being deep in my pelvis, the baby’s head almost crowning.  There are no words for that.  It’s a very interesting sensation.

It was 11:40 am. Our baby was making his way into the world. Maria was supporting my perineum with a warm cloth. I felt the “ring of fire” for just a moment and I welcomed it. 

Then his head and shoulders were out!  Maria told me to reach down. So ungrateful at the time, I thought “Really? I have to do this part, too?” as I summoned my strength, then I reached down and lifted our slippery baby onto my chest.

He was red-faced and loud, yet still semi-inert, unfolding and coming into his body. And he was huge!  I was holding him in my arms, completely naked, overjoyed and overwhelmed. There was a flurry of activity, a warm blanket, a moment of confusion.  It’s a boy!  

We had a son.  It felt so right.

The next several minutes were a blur.  Nate was at my breast, but he was too hysterical to nurse. It was a little funny and a little scary to hear him crying so loudly.  Lung function: check!

We waited fifteen minutes until the cord stopped pulsing, then Dave cut it. I handed Nate to him. Dave cuddled our baby on his warm bare chest before moving to the living room for their first (loud) moments together, father and son.  

Mystery 3 – The Placenta

Meanwhile, back in the bedroom, I still had to birth the placenta but nothing was happening. The surges were gone.  I was exhausted and elated, with no desire to push.  

The clock was ticking. As we got further away from the minute of Nate’s arrival – 11:41 am – Maria’s and Sue’s demeanors changed. Sue was monitoring a stopwatch and calling out numbers. Maria suggested I sit on her birth stool.  She told me sternly that I had to deliver the placenta now and I knew she meant it.  But I didn’t know how.

The interventions started. I was given a shot of Pitocin in my thigh to bring on contractions. I barely felt it.  I was given a catheter to empty my bladder.  That felt great.  Maria and Sue gave me an IV of fluids (I think to keep up my blood pressure). That was fine, too.  I was very relaxed. I felt completely safe, and so very happy.  I did it!  I had a baby!  Besides, it was clear that Maria and Sue were doing all of the worrying for me.

I was bleeding this entire time. Now forty-five minutes had passed since Nate’s birth. Maria gave me another 5 minutes, then she said we would have to consider transferring to the hospital.  She instructed me to let her know if I felt dizzy or heard any ringing in my ears. I wanted to deliver the placenta, but I was also at peace with whatever happened. I already felt like our birth had been such a victorious and empowering experience.

At this point, Sue came to my shoulder. Quietly she said:

Thank you, placenta, for supporting Nate throughout this pregnancy. It’s been a wonderful pregnancy. But it’s over. Nate’s on the outside now. We will nourish him here. You can let go.

Her words were so powerful. I hadn’t realized that I felt any sadness about ending the pregnancy and entering this new phase of motherhood, but I did. I closed my eyes and let her blessing sink in. I thanked the placenta and tried to let go.

A minute later, there was a gush of blood.  Maria said, “I think that might be the placenta detaching. Let’s push.” And out it came, all in one piece. The bleeding stopped. We stayed home.

The End/Beginning

I lost 1,200 cubic centimeters of blood during the last stage of Nate’s birth, about 5 cups. For the next three days, I was pale and dizzy whenever I stood up. But mostly I stayed in my own wonderful bed, snuggling with Dave and our beautiful baby while a crazy new world revolved around us.

In his quest to help heal me, Dave learned how to make an amazing boeuf bourguignon.

When Maria weighed him, we discovered Nate was 8.5 pounds  – so much bigger than anyone had guessed!

Adorably, his left foot had a slight curve to it – the same unmistakable foot that I’d felt nestled under my ribcage for so many months.

My mantra had worked: I did get huge! Thanks to Maria’s coaching, Nate was born without any tearing at all. (Although to be honest, after everything I don’t think I would have cared about stitches in the slightest.)

I had intended our natural home birth as a gift to our baby –-the gentlest possible welcome to Earth. Instead Nate screamed inconsolably for three full hours. Our pediatrician, Dr. Avril Swan, even came over that evening to check on him and confirm he was okay. (He was.)

But when he finally fell asleep, his cheek pressed to my breast and his arms wrapped from one side of my torso to the other. He was just hours old and already giving me a humongous bear hug. 

In those glorious hormone-steeped days that followed, I felt such heartache and joy – knowing every new day would take us farther away from the time when Nate and I were inseparable, yet also realizing every day would bring me closer to knowing and loving him fully.  And so it still goes now, 19 months later, with every great and small leap forward, every morning that begins (too early) with the sound of “Mama!” 

 




Posted on August 20, 2015 .

Baby E Arrives by K.C.

This is my moment to write my birth story! Baby Evan is in his newly-set-up rocker, with a gorgeous hand-knit blanket that just arrived from my sister Diana, and if he wakes I’m going to try gently rocking him with my toe while I keep writing, as I read that Louise Erdrich did–she says it’s pretty easy to have a newborn as a writer. We shall see…

Eight days have now passed since the birth and I want to get this down asap–we’ll think of it as the stream-of-consciousness Blog Edition, and I will refine and perfect it later for Baby Evan’s consumption later in life.

So, let’s begin where I left off–last Saturday, when we were preparing to check in to UCSF. All homey methods of labor induction (acupuncture, walking, spicy food, castor oil) seemed to have no effect–I had no signs of labor at all. The delay in our check-in time to the hospital from 8am to noon to 8pm helped me make the transition mentally to preparing for this new scenario in the hospital. I felt oddly calm, and focused on the benefits of being in the hospital–sometimes all that monitoring and state-of-the-art medicine can come in handy.

I had spoken with Maria, my midwife, the night before and she walked me through what to expect with induced labor. I would go through a first step of medication (Misoprostyl or Cervidyl) to soften and prepare my cervix. This would take 12-24 hours. Once ready, they would start the Pitocin.

So, my mom and I were glad to start in the evening because we could knock out those first 12 hours while sleeping. Still, we packed books and Scrabble and all of our electronics, thinking we’d get off to a slow start.

We were admitted at 8pm. It was much calmer on a Saturday night than during a weekday when I had been there for non-stress tests. We were shown to our room which had a partial view of the city at dusk.

I filled out a bunch of paperwork, including papers for the baby on which I was the signatory “parent” (gasp!), and decided to start with Cervidyl, which they described as like a tampon they would stick in and then wait. OK. They checked me at this point and I was less than 1 centimeter dilated, just the width of a fingertip. I called Maria and she said to get some rest–we had a lot of work to do the next day.

(Evan’s eyes just opened but he looks pretty happy. Trying the Louise Erdrich toe-rocking method. Easy.)

I felt some cramping as I went to sleep, and proceeded to get up probably once an hour to use the bathroom. My mom slept soundly on the pull-out chair/cot. The clock on the wall proceeded onward. Everything was quiet.

At 5am, (uh oh–red-faced crying baby…one diaper change later and he is now on the boob. This is a little awkward but doable, Louise.) I was uncomfortable enough that I could no longer stay in bed, although I was hesitant to say what was happening since I’d been maybe feeling contraction-ish twinges for like two weeks and nothing ever turned out to be anything. Soon, though, the nurse came back in and said, “It looks like you’re having some contractions.”

In fact, she determined that I was going into labor without Pitocin. Huge victory at this point–of course, my fear was that Pitocin-induced contractions would be way too strong and start the inevitable spiral of hospital interventions…  and I seemingly had kicked off labor without it.

I texted my doula, Alli, and she said she was on her way. We were moved into Labor Room 5, a huge corner room facing the entire skyline, East Bay, and the trees of Mt. Sutro. One of the last things I did before things really got going was to take this picture of the sunrise and text it to my sister Diana in Chicago:

 

 

We set up the birth shrine, covered the TV with a sheet. Alli arrived at 6:45am with soup to put in the refrigerator, a sitz bath tea, and a necklace for me that she got 15 years ago in Benin. She told me to set my intention on the necklace (“healthy mom and baby”). I feel like I was in ‘serious’ labor pretty quickly, although throughout the day was confused about the definitions of “early” and “active” labor (and active labor turned out to be much later)–very soon I stationed myself on a birth ball and was vocalizing through contractions.

My dad and sister showed up for a bit, which was nice. By the time they left, I was entering the naked phase which lasted the whole rest of the birth process–the only thing I wore was this halter top of rough fabric that held two circular monitors, one for the baby’s heartbeat and one for contractions. It was the nurses’ primary obsession to keep these circles in place, through many baths and position changes and moving around the room, which annoyed me, but also reassured me that we knew all was well with the baby. (Baby is now back in the rocker and I’m rocking it with my toe again. He’s moving his arms around–and his eyes are open. This writing may not last long as my mom is on a walk…)

Those early hours of labor are a blur…I think it was pretty doable, but felt like real work. I was being told all day that I was progressing steadily so I just progressed steadily. We did the birth ball, hands and knees, child’s pose, the bath. (Just did the 5 S’s of the Happiest Baby on the Block and now he’s swaddled and sleeping again. Man, I picked his fussier time of day to write but I’ll keep going.)

It’s hard to say how I “felt” through these hours–I was just “in it.”  I was very present and my body felt strong. It felt intense from the beginning, although you never know how much more intense it’s going to get. They asked me if I wanted to be checked but said they didn’t feel it was necessary since my contractions were obviously progressing, and I said no thanks.

Coincidentally, my good friend Melissa had gone into labor at the same time, and because she had also engaged the services of both Maria AND Alli, it was quickly determined that since I was already in the hospital and she’d be starting at home, she’d get Maria and I’d keep Alli. Since I was already in labor when I heard this, I just accepted it and moved on–I was so happy to have Alli and my mom and the kind nurses. I knew Melissa needed Maria.

In other coincidences, Alli had a THIRD client go into labor and check into the room next to mine. This client was 22 years old, and she was in and out in like 5 hours, so this was hardly a blip on my screen–Alli left for 30 mins for the birth and then she was back. Around 5pm, Alli’s backup, Jen, came by, and when she came in the room, I noticed that I was able to have a whole cheerful conversation with her. Which I wouldn’t have been able to do in any of the previous hours. Which seemed not good.

I’d been throwing up multiple times and they had finally given me fluids and anti-nausea medication–I kept saying I felt so much better and chalked it up to that. But it wasn’t that.

It was clear things were slowing down as we approached 12 hours. Alli suggested we dance to move around and get things flowing again. I suggested the song “Happy,” knowing that this song should totally piss me off in labor–yet, there I was dancing through the whole song and not having any contractions. And it wasn’t pissing me off.

A doctor came in the room to say that my contractions were slowing down and we should talk about “augmentation.” Oh god, I thought, here we go. I had thought I was out of the woods and nope. I asked to call Maria and had a whole phone call with her without contractions. She said I could go one of two ways–if I felt my body needed to rest, I could take a break, rest, see if my labor started back up on its own. I’d need strength for the pushing phase. On the other hand, I was already 12 hours in and in the hospital; if I felt strong enough, I could use a tool the hospital offered: Pitocin. They’d start me off super gradually and maybe I could just pick up where I left off and keep going. I wouldn’t lose any of the progress I’d made. They checked me and I told them I didn’t want to know how many centimeters. I now know that I was 4 cm and 70% effaced at 6:35pm. I had asked the doctor to consult with Alli and Alli would ‘translate.’ I didn’t want to feel the discouragement of the number after so many hours of hard work. Ultimately, the doctor wasn’t happy about not consulting directly with her patient, and Alli didn’t like having information that I didn’t have. (After that, I let them tell me the number.)

I told Maria on the phone that while I did feel sleepy, my body felt strong. I wanted to keep going. They started the Pitocin. And, sure enough, within an hour, my contractions were back to what they were and the show was back on the road. (Baby Evan is gumming his swaddle and making complainy noises. He started crying and his Mimi picked him up and took him into the other room.)

Then we started the long night of gradual, gradual progress–by 10:40pm I was 5 cm and 80% effaced. I asked to be catheterized because I’d been drinking all day and could never pee–they first said no, you’re just dehydrated. But I insisted and they got 1.5 LITERS of urine! And I had to be catheterized a few more times through the night. It’s important to trust your instincts!

To try to get things going faster, they turned up my Pitocin a bit and broke my bag of waters with what looked like a crochet hook. It made me a little sad that it didn’t break on its own but I quickly moved on–a small sacrifice.

I kept going and kept going, the contractions getting really intense. The best way to get a mini-break was to get in the warm bath, so I did that many times. Alli was so present, her big blue eyes right there when I looked up. She helped me dive under the waves, connect with my baby, told me over and over that I can do this. My mom was a total rock, even as my suffering intensified. (Right now she is dancing the cha-cha with Evan.)

Nearly 4 hours after that, I was checked again at 2:20am: I was 7cm and 80% effaced. Such slow progress! Ugh ugh ugh! Starting to get really, really frustrated! Starting to think I couldn’t do it. Starting to seriously doubt myself and the whole natural childbirth plan. I started to become desperate. I was so tired. My UCSF midwife, Suzanne, the one I saw for maybe two prenatal visits, happened to be working that night and she became another important rock in the room, total strength. I wanted to get back in the bath, my only respite. She mentioned on the way in that the bath won’t slow down “active labor.” Oh, so I’m finally in “active” labor at this point, I thought, as we approach the 24 hour mark.

Sure enough, the bath felt good but did not lessen the contractions. She sat on the bathroom floor beside me as I alternated between comatose sleeping and big, hard, anguished contractions. I started to say I didn’t think I could do this. She said, “You can totally do this. You ARE doing this.”

I got out of the tub and, in my memory, I crawled back into the room. I think in reality I walked in but ended up on my hands and knees somehow. I was saying I can’t do this, that I was frantic, that I just wanted the epidural. My audience wasn’t really going to budge on that one–they looked at me blankly for a moment, then with compassion, then said again, “You can do this.” I was furious. But I kept somehow, somehow, kept going, one contraction at a time.

The midwife said, well we do have this drug called Fentanyl that can take the edge off, it lasts about an hour to an hour and half. And I said YES, bring me that, thinking OK good, maybe this is all I needed. They brought it in, hooked it up to my IV, and I felt lightheaded for a second, then the next contraction hit. It honestly didn’t take the edge off, at all. Still, lightheadedness was something… And I kept going. By 5:20am I had progressed to “almost 8.” (Yes, that’s right–between 2:20 and 5:20am I progressed from 7 to “almost 8.”)

At this point, I just felt beaten. Maria says that this is when I surrendered. I told my mom and Alli to go ahead and get some sleep–there was nothing more they could do for me. They were utterly exhausted. I got in a side-lying position on the bed, the only position I could manage, and the Fentanyl allowed me to sleep for two minutes at a time between contractions. For this, I thank that drug, because although it didn’t make it less painful, I think my body could regenerate just enough. There were almost no thoughts. No more visualizations, no more mantras, no more words or ideas. I couldn’t think of myself or the baby. The only thought I remember having was to call the nurse and ask her to bring me the nitrous oxide setup and specifically not to wake my mom or Alli–it would be our secret! But somehow I didn’t hit that call button.

That last hour was the purest, most intense physical experience of my life. Just huge waves that completely obliterated me, punctuated by sleep. And, at around 6:30am, just as the second sunrise broke across the city, I had the blessed urge to push. “Mom! I have the urge to push!” She had the nurse on the line 4 seconds later, the nurse had the doctor in 4 seconds after that, I was checked, and I was 10 cm–complete!!! Oh, hallelujah! Let’s DO THIS!!!

Everything changed–I was giddy. Alli had gone to the cafeteria and I texted her: “Ready to push come back!” I also texted Maria and she was able to come! Doctors and nurses and midwives were assembling in the room and I was getting a primer on how to push–Alli said, “It’s going to feel like you’re pushing a giant boulder out of your butt.” (It totally did.) Gather all the energy of the contraction at the beginning, and, when you’re ready, give it everything you’ve got.

I ended up on my back on the bed, holding my knees in the air, and the sun streamed in, and this incredible team of birth goddesses made a U around the end of the bed–Alli, my mom, a medical student named Kacy who held up my iPad like a mirror so I could watch my progress, a new midwife Sharon, the OB who would catch the baby, awesome/amazing nurses, and Maria walked in just in time! I actually said, “this part is going to be fun.”

The mood was like a party–after the dim and dark hours of labor through the night, it felt like a different room. Sunshine and the talents of modern medicine and midwifery and family and love all gathered close.

When my first big contraction came, I gave it all I had–and the team totally freaked out, telling me I was a champion pusher and they could see the head already! What?!?! Yes! It has dark hair! Incredible! Just keep doing what you’re doing!

So I did–I was yelling in that gutteral way you see in movies and just pushing like gangbusters, harnessing the freight train that was rushing through my body, like no other sensation in the world. And the baby moved down, and down, and down. They were all so encouraging and clearly having a blast. And, honestly, so was I.

This was the high point, the whole pushing phase, I was totally empowered and animal and in my body. The head started to crown–they were pouring mineral oil over the top and holding a warm compress to my perineum and cheering like a crowd in a stadium. I could see his head emerging on my iPad and it was so motivating!

At some point, Maria said, “KATIE, REACH DOWN AND PULL OUT YOUR BABY!” and I did, and his whole body slipped out of me and he was on my chest and I was hyperventilating and laughing and saying “oh my god” a million times and he cried right away and looked at me with his EYES and grabbed my finger with his HAND and everyone was crying and he was perfect. They were wiping him roughly with towels to get him to pink up and suctioning his mouth and nose and it was a short umbilical cord so I couldn’t get him very high up but I could kiss his head and say, “I’m your mama! You’re here!” and he cried and was adorable and HUGE. He was born at 8:51am on May 19, 2014.

(He is back in the rocker sleeping peaceful now, thanks Mimi. And I’m sitting here crying, reliving his birth.)

We stayed like that for a long time, I have no idea how long, and eventually I cut the cord myself (!) and they took him across the room to do a few things and my mom went with him. I overheard someone say “10 pounds, 2 ounces,” and was completely blown away–none of us EVER thought I had a 10lb baby. In fact, thank goodness none of us knew, especially me. He came out long and strong. All his checks went perfectly and they brought him back to me. My mom went to my dad and sister in the waiting room that it would just be a little longer and they could come in–fortunately they weren’t in the room for what came next.

The docs were acting a little nervous about my placenta. Because he was so big, his placenta was also big. Then they were reassured, “there it is,” and it was born 14 minutes after the baby. And, when it detached it caused a hemorrhage. Alli got in my face with her big blue eyes as the room filled with twice as many doctors and said, “So, there’s an issue with the placenta, it’s totally going to be fine, we have the best team working on this, and you and I are going to just stay right here and focus on the baby.” I stayed calm as they put all kinds of new meds in my IV to get my uterus to clamp down and stop the bleeding, which they did quickly, but not before I lost a lot of blood.

So that was scary but because they resolved it so quickly, and I was on Cloud 1,000,000, it felt more like an addendum to the whole experience. I’m just so grateful that it was quickly resolved and I made a quick recovery.

They cleaned up the room and brought my family in and there were tears and photos and we called my sister Diana and welcomed our new family member. We ordered food and marveled over this little (not so little) guy who was just impossibly cute for having been born just hours before.

They moved me to a smaller room and my family left and I spent hours just staring at him, the rest of the day slipped away and I barely even slept. He was and is perfect. A dream come true. I am grateful for every moment with this beautiful human as I complete one epic journey and begin an even bigger one.

Welcome, Baby Evan! (and, on cue, he just woke up.)

(If you are interested in more, please check out Katie's blog at www.thesolomamaproject.wordpress.com!)

Posted on August 16, 2014 .

Gray's Almost Homebirth by Vanessa

It's been almost 3 years since this beautiful and unexpected birth experience. Although I wrote the story one week after he was born, I haven't shared it until now. I felt disappointed and ashamed about transferring to the hospital and not having the homebirth we planned which I think prevented me from sharing for awhile. I also felt grateful and happy we still had a natural birth with no major interventions and many beautiful moments during the birth. I was born at home and so were both my siblings so I assumed my children would be as well, but the universe had different plans. As we prepare for the birth of our second child, due in one week, the story keeps coming back to me and begging to be shared. So here it is...  Gray Roland Oscar arrived Saturday, May 21st 2011, at 7:01am, 1 week before his due date. He was a healthy and beautiful 8lb 1oz, 20.5 inches long. I had been feeling cramping and Braxton Hicks periodically throughout the week. Friday evening I began feeling lower back pain and some contractions after sitting for awhile to Skype and show off the belly to my brother. I thought I'd either sat too long in one position or it might be time for baby to come, but the sensations were very irregular. So when Matt came home from work around 8pm feeling sick with a cold, we ate a good meal of our favorite takeout (Nopalito) and talked with excitement about the baby possibly coming soon. We both felt tired and that we could be in for a long night so around 10pm we decided to sleep and see what happened overnight. I woke up about midnight and realized I could no longer lay down and these were the steady surges I had read about coming over me like ocean waves. I immediately woke Matt up and told him to get ready. The labor was intense and progressed fast which caught Matt and I both by surprise. As he prepared our bed and tried to get the birth tub setup, I contacted friends who had offered to help but everyone was unavailable. I then called my mom (who was living in the Boston area) for support while Matt did preparation. I was timing the contractions on Matt's phone which he setup as a stopwatch to track them for me. I talked with my mom, who was living in Boston, for support until my phone died. I mainly wanted to stand and lean (on the table, dresser, sink) and remembering "juicy hips" from Jane's class really helped as well as Matt doing massage we practiced in class. 

It's been almost 3 years since this beautiful and unexpected birth experience. Although I wrote the story one week after he was born, I haven't shared it until now. I felt disappointed and ashamed about transferring to the hospital and not having the homebirth we planned which I think prevented me from sharing for awhile. I also felt grateful and happy we still had a natural birth with no major interventions and many beautiful moments during the birth. I was born at home and so were both my siblings so I assumed my children would be as well, but the universe had different plans. As we prepare for the birth of our second child, due in one week, the story keeps coming back to me and begging to be shared. So here it is... 


Gray Roland Oscar arrived Saturday, May 21st 2011, at 7:01am, 1 week before his due date. He was a healthy and beautiful 8lb 1oz, 20.5 inches long. I had been feeling cramping and Braxton Hicks periodically throughout the week. Friday evening I began feeling lower back pain and some contractions after sitting for awhile to Skype and show off the belly to my brother. I thought I'd either sat too long in one position or it might be time for baby to come, but the sensations were very irregular. So when Matt came home from work around 8pm feeling sick with a cold, we ate a good meal of our favorite takeout (Nopalito) and talked with excitement about the baby possibly coming soon. We both felt tired and that we could be in for a long night so around 10pm we decided to sleep and see what happened overnight.

I woke up about midnight and realized I could no longer lay down and these were the steady surges I had read about coming over me like ocean waves. I immediately woke Matt up and told him to get ready. The labor was intense and progressed fast which caught Matt and I both by surprise. As he prepared our bed and tried to get the birth tub setup, I contacted friends who had offered to help but everyone was unavailable. I then called my mom (who was living in the Boston area) for support while Matt did preparation. I was timing the contractions on Matt's phone which he setup as a stopwatch to track them for me. I talked with my mom, who was living in Boston, for support until my phone died. I mainly wanted to stand and lean (on the table, dresser, sink) and remembering "juicy hips" from Jane's class really helped as well as Matt doing massage we practiced in class. 

I felt so relieved when Matt looked at the stopwatch and said we should call Maria. She got there quickly at around 3am. I was going into transition and 7cm dilated when she checked me. My memory is a blur from there, but around this time I also had Skyped my mom and was leaning on the couch for a bit. Then we moved to the toilet and I stayed there for awhile as it felt very comfortable and I had to go so frequently anyway. Maria was a constant, reassuring presence, but let us do our thing and just came in periodically to monitor the heartbeat. I was shaky and threw up a couple times while sitting on the toilet, but the position felt relaxing after leaning over for so long. Sue Baelen came as second midwife with a comforting presence and began offering me drinks with a straw which was nice. My water broke at 5am on the toilet and Maria checked the color to make sure there wasn't too much meconium. She said I would probably feel the urge to push like I had to poop soon and I did. 

I felt so relieved when Matt looked at the stopwatch and said we should call Maria. She got there quickly at around 3am. I was going into transition and 7cm dilated when she checked me. My memory is a blur from there, but around this time I also had Skyped my mom and was leaning on the couch for a bit. Then we moved to the toilet and I stayed there for awhile as it felt very comfortable and I had to go so frequently anyway. Maria was a constant, reassuring presence, but let us do our thing and just came in periodically to monitor the heartbeat. I was shaky and threw up a couple times while sitting on the toilet, but the position felt relaxing after leaning over for so long. Sue Baelen came as second midwife with a comforting presence and began offering me drinks with a straw which was nice. My water broke at 5am on the toilet and Maria checked the color to make sure there wasn't too much meconium. She said I would probably feel the urge to push like I had to poop soon and I did. 

gray3.jpg
I'm not sure why or how, but we then moved into the bedroom for the birth. My guess is they told me the tub wasn't filling up quick enough and the bed is where I thought it'd be best to have the baby. I was on hands and knees propped up with pillows on our bed and beginning to push when baby's heart rate started decelerating during contractions and not recovering properly. I began to feel scared, doubtful, and anxious at this point about what was happening both with the intensity of feeling in my body and the baby's heartbeat which I could hear dropping. I could also hear the midwives talking about what to do and could tell something was concerning. Maria checked me again and there was a tiny bit of cervix she massaged open. Then I was fully dilated and started to push again, but still the heart rate was decelerating. They had me rest on my side and not push while they put me on oxygen and assessed the situation. Maria and Sue both calmly said we should consider transporting, but it was our choice and we had to move quick as baby was ready to come. I was in no state to decide and just trying my hardest not to push so I turned to Matt. We had talked about this ahead of time as I knew I would not be able to make decisions in the moment.  At 6am we got in Maria's car and zipped over to UCSF. The hardest part of labor was trying not to push during that car ride with the oxygen mask on in the back seat by myself. Before we left, Sue helped me get dressed and told me to go within and talk to my baby and tell him it is safe to come out. So I went within and focused on that mantra to remain calm when surrounded by the chaos of a hospital. This was so helpful as I had been caught up in my own feelings and forgotten to connect with my baby and the deeply internal process. They were ready for us when we got there and quickly hooked me up to monitors and such. I was terrified of the hospital scene and that they would try to put me on drugs or do all types of interventions. All the doctors and people in blue scrubs with bright lights and machines everywhere was completely overwhelming. So I chose to only look at Matt and Maria, who were both to my left side with the sunrise in a big window behind them.

I'm not sure why or how, but we then moved into the bedroom for the birth. My guess is they told me the tub wasn't filling up quick enough and the bed is where I thought it'd be best to have the baby. I was on hands and knees propped up with pillows on our bed and beginning to push when baby's heart rate started decelerating during contractions and not recovering properly. I began to feel scared, doubtful, and anxious at this point about what was happening both with the intensity of feeling in my body and the baby's heartbeat which I could hear dropping. I could also hear the midwives talking about what to do and could tell something was concerning. Maria checked me again and there was a tiny bit of cervix she massaged open. Then I was fully dilated and started to push again, but still the heart rate was decelerating. They had me rest on my side and not push while they put me on oxygen and assessed the situation. Maria and Sue both calmly said we should consider transporting, but it was our choice and we had to move quick as baby was ready to come. I was in no state to decide and just trying my hardest not to push so I turned to Matt. We had talked about this ahead of time as I knew I would not be able to make decisions in the moment. 

At 6am we got in Maria's car and zipped over to UCSF. The hardest part of labor was trying not to push during that car ride with the oxygen mask on in the back seat by myself. Before we left, Sue helped me get dressed and told me to go within and talk to my baby and tell him it is safe to come out. So I went within and focused on that mantra to remain calm when surrounded by the chaos of a hospital. This was so helpful as I had been caught up in my own feelings and forgotten to connect with my baby and the deeply internal process. They were ready for us when we got there and quickly hooked me up to monitors and such. I was terrified of the hospital scene and that they would try to put me on drugs or do all types of interventions. All the doctors and people in blue scrubs with bright lights and machines everywhere was completely overwhelming. So I chose to only look at Matt and Maria, who were both to my left side with the sunrise in a big window behind them.

Maria was amazing as an advocate for us and liaison with the hospital staff. She helped explain everything and made sure they did not do anything without our understanding or permission. Our biggest obstacle at first with the doctors was that I was GBS positive and refusing antibiotics. I remember Maria just saying clearly "This baby is coming now. There is not time for that!" and feeling so grateful for her presence as they seemed to respect her opinion. Matt was my rock and looking into his eyes while holding his hand helped me stay calm and focused.

Maria was amazing as an advocate for us and liaison with the hospital staff. She helped explain everything and made sure they did not do anything without our understanding or permission. Our biggest obstacle at first with the doctors was that I was GBS positive and refusing antibiotics. I remember Maria just saying clearly "This baby is coming now. There is not time for that!" and feeling so grateful for her presence as they seemed to respect her opinion. Matt was my rock and looking into his eyes while holding his hand helped me stay calm and focused.

When they finally told me I could start pushing, it felt so good to finally do it! I just couldn't wait for the next contraction and all my fear dissipated as I tapped into my inner strength to push my baby out into the world. I was really thirsty, but no one would tell Matt where to get me water and they just kept saying they'd give me fluid through an IV which did not help the dry feeling in my mouth. The baby's heart rate was still unstable so they were concerned and one doctor said I had to get him out fast and gave me a time limit of 10 minutes before using the vacuum, which looking back seems silly since I had no concept of time. Another more friendly doctor told me I could take the oxygen mask off during contractions if that helped and it did. So I gave it my all and again focused on Matt and Maria who assured me I was doing great and was capable of getting baby out safely. After about a half hour of hardcore pushing and a small episiotomy (which we allowed under Maria's advisement), Gray was born looking very healthy at 7:01am with a 9/9 apgars and no explanation for the decelerations.

When they finally told me I could start pushing, it felt so good to finally do it! I just couldn't wait for the next contraction and all my fear dissipated as I tapped into my inner strength to push my baby out into the world. I was really thirsty, but no one would tell Matt where to get me water and they just kept saying they'd give me fluid through an IV which did not help the dry feeling in my mouth. The baby's heart rate was still unstable so they were concerned and one doctor said I had to get him out fast and gave me a time limit of 10 minutes before using the vacuum, which looking back seems silly since I had no concept of time. Another more friendly doctor told me I could take the oxygen mask off during contractions if that helped and it did. So I gave it my all and again focused on Matt and Maria who assured me I was doing great and was capable of getting baby out safely. After about a half hour of hardcore pushing and a small episiotomy (which we allowed under Maria's advisement), Gray was born looking very healthy at 7:01am with a 9/9 apgars and no explanation for the decelerations.

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I felt immediate relief, pure bliss, and a wonderful sense of the power inside my own body that had taken over. Holding Gray and snuggling him to my chest for the first time was the most amazing feeling I've ever experienced. Matt and I both were crying with joy and the profound sense of love for our new little family. 

I felt immediate relief, pure bliss, and a wonderful sense of the power inside my own body that had taken over. Holding Gray and snuggling him to my chest for the first time was the most amazing feeling I've ever experienced. Matt and I both were crying with joy and the profound sense of love for our new little family. 

My biggest complaint with the hospital birth was that they cut the cord quickly and didn't give him to me right away. Instead, they took him over to an area of the room where I couldn't see to check him out (Matt went with him). I remember asking to delay cord clamping and hold him, but Maria said they wouldn't. I think this was because they saw more meconium come out with him and maybe because of the heart decelerations too. They did bring him to me quickly and he clearly recognized his mama. After I was holding him for a bit, Maria noticed he was making sounds that indicate trouble breathing. So they took him to the nursery to suction out some meconium and mucus way down in his lungs and again we were grateful Maria was there.

My biggest complaint with the hospital birth was that they cut the cord quickly and didn't give him to me right away. Instead, they took him over to an area of the room where I couldn't see to check him out (Matt went with him). I remember asking to delay cord clamping and hold him, but Maria said they wouldn't. I think this was because they saw more meconium come out with him and maybe because of the heart decelerations too. They did bring him to me quickly and he clearly recognized his mama. After I was holding him for a bit, Maria noticed he was making sounds that indicate trouble breathing. So they took him to the nursery to suction out some meconium and mucus way down in his lungs and again we were grateful Maria was there.

Matt went with him to hold his hand and say no to all the other "routine" procedures they wanted to do in the nursery. Gray was back to me for skin time in 20 minutes breathing normally and ready to sleep on his mama's chest which he still loves to do. Maria said we could decide whether to checkout AMA (against medical advice) that day or stay the night and have them do the newborn tests. We decided to stay the day and night at the hospital as we were all exhausted. Although it was incredibly uncomfortable and not our cozy home environment, we did have a room with a panoramic view of the golden gate bridge and some very friendly nurses. We had a great nurse who helped us get discharged the next day even though they wanted us to stay 48 hours for monitoring due to my GBS positive status.  The past 3 years has been a rollercoaster of emotions about this birth. Ending up at the hospital was hard, but ultimately it was still an empowering and beautiful experience for me. Working through my feelings around this birth is one of the greatest lessons and healing opportunities in my motherhood journey. Gray loves to hear the story of his birth and see pictures from that day which helps me remember the truly amazing experience. He is such a beautiful being full of love, laughter, and a wonderful imagination that I feel so lucky to have brought into this world. 

Matt went with him to hold his hand and say no to all the other "routine" procedures they wanted to do in the nursery. Gray was back to me for skin time in 20 minutes breathing normally and ready to sleep on his mama's chest which he still loves to do. Maria said we could decide whether to checkout AMA (against medical advice) that day or stay the night and have them do the newborn tests. We decided to stay the day and night at the hospital as we were all exhausted. Although it was incredibly uncomfortable and not our cozy home environment, we did have a room with a panoramic view of the golden gate bridge and some very friendly nurses. We had a great nurse who helped us get discharged the next day even though they wanted us to stay 48 hours for monitoring due to my GBS positive status. 

The past 3 years has been a rollercoaster of emotions about this birth. Ending up at the hospital was hard, but ultimately it was still an empowering and beautiful experience for me. Working through my feelings around this birth is one of the greatest lessons and healing opportunities in my motherhood journey. Gray loves to hear the story of his birth and see pictures from that day which helps me remember the truly amazing experience. He is such a beautiful being full of love, laughter, and a wonderful imagination that I feel so lucky to have brought into this world. 

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Posted on July 13, 2014 .