Community Birth Story: Alistair

Community Birth Story: Alistair

As told by Elizabeth: In the summer of 2014, we were driving down the road listening to music and enjoying the warm breeze while our 15 month old snoozed in the backseat. Andrew turned to me and said “what do you think of the name Alistair? You know for one day when we have our boy?” Given our history of Infertility before our first baby was born and the complications that occurred during her birth; up until that point I hadn’t really allowed myself to dream of more children. I wanted more but I was trying to protect my heart. But hearing him speak that just as fact… *when* we have *OUR* boy! It lit a fire in my heart. And when I heard that name! Alistair, it was as if I’d run into a brick wall. I laughed and gasped and kept repeating it over and over. There’s was just something about it. And for the next 14 months that name would never be far from my mind… from January-may of the following year we were TTC… with no success then I began to have some health issues so we stopped and I focused on getting well. We started trying again in August.

Fast forward to September, just a few weeks later, our life was suddenly upside down. Andrew (our sole provider) very unexpectedly lost his job, we immediately stopped TTC. But 17 days after he lost his job, I woke from a deep sleep early in the morning from a horrible dream; and very clearly heard the Holy Spirit say “go take a pregnancy test” so I got up and took one LOL and it was immediately positive. I was in such shock! My dear grandmother who was much more like a mother to me was very ill (and would pass away not 6wks after we found out about the pregnancy) we were surrounded by stress and uncertainty. I was afraid of the pregnancy and birth being the same as Mira’s had been; I didn’t want that! This time I wanted to keep my power. I wanted to labor and birth on MY terms. I wanted to make choices based on my instincts and not someone scaring me. This time I had something to prove… Not to anyone else, but to myself.
The holidays of 2015 were surrounded with having a preventative cerclage placed and recovering from that and then being on bed rest for the next few months til we were out of the danger zone, which for incompetent cervix last until 28 weeks. I basically held my breath during that time; I tried to enjoy my pregnancy but it was hard for being so worried. After we passed the 28th week the excitement kicked in. We spent a lot of time at the encouraging of our doulas considering what our ideal birth would look like… This really helped us, not because our birth went exactly how we envisioned but because it was important to think and consider all the possible details we may encounter along the way.
Around 37 weeks I began having regular bouts of consistent contractions. I was hopeful every time. As my due date came and went, I was anxious and so excited. My daughter had been born at 40+5 days. So that was like a beacon of sorts in my mind. I’d tell myself “he’s going to wait til then” not because I necessarily thought he’d gestate exactly as long as she did… But it help me cope with waiting to remember how long she cooked. On my due date I got a massage and it caused some contractions. I got excited! They stopped. This continued every day for the next 2wks. Each time they would be very close together and increasing in intensity before just abruptly stopping. I got frustrated. My doula reminded me that this was my body preparing. So we waited… And waited… And waited… At 40+6 days (the day I was officially the most pregnant I’d ever been lol) I started acupuncture to bring on labor. This is what I did with my daughter and she was born two days later! I continued getting acupuncture everyday for a week. It never once caused me to contract lol. The anxiousness was building.
The following Saturday evening I was 41+3 I had 6ish hours of intense contractions! They were double and triple peaking and I had to be on my feet… I was squatting a lot. I thought for sure this was it. We finished packing. Alerted my friend that would come and stay with my daughter. And then as quickly as they started… They.just.stopped. I spent the next 24hrs or so in a really dark place… I was just consumed with the “forever pregnant” feeling. I spent hours that day sitting in my rocker in my room and staring out the window at the trees blowing in the wind and wishing I could just fly away… Just fly away and come back when this was all over… It was such a head trip. And I wanted off the crazy train. I wanted to escape my body. I just sat there crying and singing “It is well” softly… Intense! By that evening I was overcome with the feeling that it was time to meet this baby. I was never worried for his safety, just had a strong feeling his birthday was soon!
(Last bump pic 41+4)
The next morning my phone rang pretty early; it was my doctor calling to talk. He was never pushy and repeatedly said it was my decision, but at the very least as I was approaching 42wks he wanted to check the baby and make sure he was hanging ok. So we decided to head to the hospital later that afternoon. I loved how when I asked him what time I should come he just responded with “whenever. We’ll be here just come on up to L&D and we will hook you up for a bit” so respectful of this being my body and my baby. On the way to the hospital we went and saw my favorite chiropractor for one last adjustment and acupuncture treatment. We were laughing so hard as I sat there and she pushed on all the pressure points and I didn’t have ONE contraction. Not one! LOL! We stopped and got some lunch at five guys and arrived at the hospital a few hours later and they checked the baby out and he was perfectly happy and doing very well. I asked them to check me because up to this point I hadn’t had any vaginal exams, so I had no idea if I was even dilated at all! Turns out I was 2cm and about 50%! Progress! At that point knowing how much I wanted to avoid meds… The dr offered to place a Foley catheter, to manually open the cervix to 4-5cm and hopefully kick me into labor. He gave us some time to think it over and we decided to go for it. Once we told them we wanted to do the foley, they told us it would be a while since they had an emergency to deal with. So I texted my friend and arranged for her to meet Andrew at the house. Then he left to head home with Mira… My first baby. I hugged and hugged her and squeezed her within an inch of her life. She was giggling and squirming to get away but I couldn’t help but feel suffocated by the feeling that this was the very last time I would hold my only child in my arms… It was heavy and surreal. And when they left, I sat there alone and sobbed and sobbed.
(Last pic with my only child)
After an hour or two the dr came in and placed the Foley around 9pm, and was told it could take up to 12hrs to get me to 5cm. It wasn’t the most comfortable experience, but I brushed it off… I mean, I’m going to be in labor soon! Nothing about this will be comfortable haha they monitored me for a bit and by that time Andrew was back from meeting my friend and getting Mira home and to bed. Before long the nurses came to move me to a new room. Because the current one was 87 degrees! Crazy hot! Not what a pregnant lady never mind one that’s in labor wants! The nurse pulled the catheter taught and taped it to my leg. Holy Cramps Batman!! Woah! They were heavy right away. I felt so excited, I couldn’t stop smiling. I waddled across the maternity ward to a much cooler room, 68 baby! They brought me a fan too. Before long everyone that came in the room was shivering haha
I settled in and was encouraged to rest, but I was way to excited. After being on the monitor for a bit I decided since I couldn’t sleep, I would get up and walk. (Notice how I said “I” decided? Because I did. Every single thing that happened was my choice!) only the walking would have to wait a bit… I sat on the toilet to pee, and felt the weirdest sensation! And plop! Out came the catheter! Not 3 hrs after they put it in! My first reaction was a bit of panic… Thinking “I can’t be 5cm yet! Omg are they going to have to put it back in!? Ugh I don’t want to do that again…” Andrew got the nurse and before long the dr was checking me and sure enough! 5cm! Yay! It was the strangest feeling to be that dilated and yet… Not in active labor. Lol at this point the dr offered me the option to go home if I wanted… and come back when labor began. Looking back, I should have gone home and gotten some sleep LOL but I was waaaay to excited! So I decided to stay. So Andrew and I walked the loop of the maternity ward, holding hands for an hour. The activity helped! Every few minutes I was getting mild contractions. After the hour passed I went back to my room and the contractions stopped. I decided to try and get some sleep. Between 1-6am I probably slept for maybe an hour, possibly two. My body was revved up! I didn’t know exactly when but I could feel the crescendo rising! I would meet my baby soon.
Andrew and I woke up as the sun was rising and showered, that shower was SO nice. Like nicer then any shower I’ve ever had! Haha I stood there and looked down as the hot water and soap hit my belly and I knew the next shower I took my bump would be empty. And my baby would be in our arms. I stood there for the longest time just marveling at the miracle of life. How amazingly God designed our bodies to grow, carry and birth new LIFE! A person! A human being all their own; comes from within my body! It’s almost to much to fathom even when right in the middle of the experience. After we showered Andrew left to go and get me some chick-fil-a hash browns and nuggets I’d been craving and he needed to return a call about a job and schedule a phone interview for the following week. He later said it was so odd to do something so ordinary in the midst of such an extraordinary time in our life.
While he was gone I walked a bit… But that wasn’t doing it for me and I decided since I was alone I was going to have a party with my baby! I put a sign on my room door that said “Do Not Disturb” and I put my ear buds in and pulled up the black eyed peas on you tube on my phone. The first song was “I got a feeling” and it just pulsed through my body, every fiber of my being knew that indeed Tonight was gonna be a good night! I danced my heart out for the next 40 minutes totally undisturbed. I can close my eyes and feel all of that again in a heart beat! I was crying and laughing and grinning so hard my face was hurting. I could NOT wait to meet my baby! And sure enough… Regular contractions began. And the more I danced and lost myself in the excitement the stronger they got. By the time Andrew got back with my food I was a sweaty mess (so much for that shower ha!) and I was having steady contractions. And for the first time since the night before my contractions actually showed up on the monitor! Woooo! Progress! I sat there eating and had consistent contractions for 20 minutes! So exciting! After 20 minutes the nurse came in and unhooked me and i wanted to walk. I walked, danced with Andrew and sat on the birth ball for a little over an hour. It was around 11am and things were getting intense… I asked Andrew to call our doula Bergen.
Over the next hour before she arrived things were getting quickly intense. I didn’t have much of a break in between VERY long hard contractions. Maybe a 30 second break at most and sometimes not more than 10-15 seconds before another one came. I was sitting on the birth ball leaning forward and laying on the bed. My glasses had long since been taken off. I couldn’t see anything and didn’t care lol And when I heard Bergen come in the room I was overcome with emotion. Her presence meant this was really real. It was happening. I was having my baby.
Throughout the rest of the day I was laboring and riding the waves. Such INTENSE waves. Squatting, dancing, hanging… Andrew and Bergen taking turns rubbing my back and squeezing my hips… Hot stones, hot rice packs, the tens unit… The back labor was just beyond any pain I’ve ever felt. All encompassing, the kind that takes you to another world. Because if your mind didn’t give you that escape? If you were fully aware of the passing of every moment and fully present you’d never make it. There were times I needed monitoring and laying in bed was excruciating. Lots of eating and drinking and vocalizing. I remember getting so annoyed when I had to pee, because I knew sitting on the toilet would give me insane contractions. Lots of time spent stuck on the toilet in the dark bathroom roaring through contraction after contraction hanging onto Andrews neck and afraid I might just break it off! And praying for a break long enough to stand… At one point we tried getting in the tub at the hospital. It felt amazing for about 20 minutes. And then the contractions were just coming and coming and I felt trapped. I couldn’t move like I needed to. So I got out of there. Movement was key during all of this laboring. Well that and vocalizing. It’s amazing how a certain sound can help pain and another can give power. I later learned that the nurse who was assigned to me during the hardest parts of my labor was sitting at the nurses station (which was right by my room) and charting my contractions based on the sounds I was making. See I wasn’t being monitored to often and even when I was most of the contractions weren’t being picked up. But she commented to me the next day that the fact that I was so vocal was fantastic! Because she was able to chart me still for the Drs even tho the monitor wasn’t picking up much.
(Two moment captured by our Doula, heavily into labor)
At a certain point (what I now believe was early transition) I began to feel so panicked. I was progressing very slowly. (Likely because of the scar tissue on my cervix. That needs to be broken through for dilation to continue to occur) And with contractions double peaking and just seconds to recover, I was exhausted. For about an hour I was quietly arguing with myself about wanting an epidural. I was scared of it leading to a bunch of interventions I didn’t want. I was feeling like choosing that was failing. I was so unfocused on my contractions during this time because I was so conflicted. And all that made me feel even more panicked. At one point I was laboring in the bathroom alone with Andrew and I said “if I get an epidural will you be disappointed in me” he got tears in his eyes and said “of course not! What? Never, ever! You’re amazing!” But then he just said “let’s focus on these contractions and you just let me know” some more time went by…. And The dr came in at one point and asked if I wanted to be checked. I did. It had been hours since the last check when I was told I was 7cm. At least 4-5hrs. I wanted to know. He patiently waited for a few contractions to pass before I was ready. That was BY FAR the VERY worst part of my labor. I couldn’t catch my breath it hurt so bad. I felt horrible and I was screaming. He kept apologizing and did it as fast as he could but it felt like an eternity. And just the worst all encompassing pain. So when he said I was still 7cm. I just cried. Everyone left the room except Andrew and Bergen and I laid there through a couple contractions and finally just said to mysef “screw it! I’m not trying to be a hero. Or prove anything to anyone! I’ve already proven more to myself then I ever have before!!!! I am SO strong! I can’t even believe how awesome I’ve done all day!” And I looked at Andrew and told him to go ask the nurse if it was to late. He came back and said no, I still could have it if I wanted. And I told him yes! I did!
From the time I said I wanted the epidural to the time it started working was like 45 minutes or so. The anesthesiologist was SO sweet! Honestly one of the very sweetest people I’ve ever met. He kept rubbing my shoulders and telling me how strong I was. Andrew and Bergen had to leave when they placed it but that was ok, I had my awesome nurse there. I sat on the edge of the bed and stared at her necklace. It was just a simple heart pendant but made me feel so surrounded by love. I was laboring sitting on the edge of the bed for contraction and after contraction and trying to focus and sit still that before I knew he said he was done. The labor was so painful I didn’t even feel the epidural needle!! Now I’ve had spinal anesthesia before when not in labor and nearly passed out it hurt so bad… How wild it was to have it done and not even feel it! I felt like a total rockstar!
As soon as the epidural meds kicked in my body was finally able to relax. My leg muscles that had been so tense they had been rock hard for hours, we’re finally soft and relaxed again. It felt amazing to be able to breathe. And yet my contractions kept up frequently and strong! And it was ALL my body doing it on its on, my contractions never needed augmented with any medications which I was so grateful for! I was supposed to rest but boy was that hard when I was on a high with relief from the intensity. Eventually I got tired and we all got some rest… Very shortly after I got checked again and I was 10! And my bag of waters was bulging. I declined having it broken. It was clear to me with how quickly I got to 10 after the epidural that my body was so tense, and unable to relax that I wasn’t progressing. Over the next few hours we all rested in between nurses checking on me… I was checked a few more times and every time asked if I wanted my water broken. But I didn’t. Baby was doing great and I wanted to just let him come down at his own pace… The last few times the Dr was getting a little pushy about it. At around 1am or so I began feeling a lot of pressure. I didn’t share this info at first because I wanted him and my body to do all the work. I was so exhausted from the hard laboring that I didn’t want to start pushing to soon. Eventually the pressure was intense enough that I told the nurse that the dr could come and break my water, it was time. Admittedly, I was disappointed they were going to break my water. I really wanted it to break on its own. So when they got everything set up and the doctor (that had been really pushy about breaking it earlier) went to break it? She discovered it had already broken! Yaaaass!!! I just didn’t realize it because there wasn’t a big gush because he was right there…
I started pushing and felt completely overwhelmed and like I didn’t know what I was doing. The other doctor there was so supportive and just kept telling me that I could do this. After a couple minutes. I found that holding onto Andrew and Bergen’s hands while bracing myself with my heals in the stirrups, lifting up a bit and tucking my pelvis upward moved him nicely. At this point the light epidural I had was pretty much worn off. After a few pushes I was doing it on my own. It was so surreal. At some point during the pushing the resident that was assisting on my birth took a call! Like really? Standing there with her hand waiting to catch my baby and she’s talking on the phone!? All I cld think was what bad manners lol I began to feel his head no longer moving back up as I pushed. At one point I started coughing, my throat was sore from the hours of roaring through contractions, and the doctor gasped and said my coughs were really moving the baby! She said “goodness your gonna just cough him right out!” We all laughed. I small moment of tense relief was nice. Within moments I felt My body take over and I felt it pushing harder and longer. I had little control at this point; muscle memory took over. My body had done this before! Then his head was out. 10 minutes total of pushing. And one more little push and I felt that all familiar feeling of him sliding out of my body… what an immediately and amazing relief!! I did it! He was placed right on my chest. Just how I’d wanted it with Mira. It was so healing. I couldn’t believe I was holding my son! He almost immediately put his thumb in his mouth. He was so perfect! All the fears I had about being able to love another child melted away… I loved him so much. I looked over and saw andrew crying and a nurse commented how big he was… (turned out he was over 2lbs bigger then his big sister was! 8.6lbs!) when his cord stopped pulsing Andrew cut it and almost immediately my placenta just leaped out of my body, it was so done, poor thing LOL. The doctor kind of jumped and caught it. Very thankful for her quick reflexes lol! I needed one stitch where an old scar had split, but I didn’t even feel it because I was holding my precious boy. What a vastly different healing experience!
(Just moments after birth)
I was up and showered within 3hrs of his birth and then walked down the hall to my recovery room. The next 36hrs of just Andrew and I with our baby were so special! And exhausting haha and seeing Mira meet her new baby brother was a moment I’ll never forget. Holding both of my babies in my arms was incredible! I am so grateful for our healing birth. And for our sweet wild free spirit! Our Son, Alistair! He came at just the right time, our light amidst the hardships all around us! His birth was the promise that healing was possible; and was a window into strength in never knew I had. His arrival showed That the possibilities for the future were wide open. He’s shaken up our lives in a Big way; They will never be the same and I couldn’t be more grateful ❤
Photo credit: The Darling Family
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Click HERE to read Alistair’s big sister Mira’s story

Click HERE to learn more about the Community Birth Stories Project or to submit your own birth story

Community Birth Story: Liesel Florette

Community Birth Story: Liesel Florette

As told by Lauren:

Liesel is born-76

Liesel entered our awareness about two weeks after our second baby was born, in the fall of 2014. So we knew another soul would be joining our family in the future. We could hear her knock become stronger and stronger, and in the spring of 2017 my husband and I were both ready to add to our family, and in the summer of 2017 she was conceived.

The pregnancy was easy and enjoyable – I love being pregnant! At each prenatal appointment, Liesel would swim away from the doppler until asked if we could listen to her heartbeat. Then she would pause long enough to get a good reading and then move away. She was teaching us early about asking her for permission on things that affected her and this would be really important during her birth.

With both of my other pregnancies, I went well beyond 40 weeks – 41+6 with Emily and 43+6 with Winfield. I joked that I am a long gestater. However, as the time drew near for Liesel to join us, I felt like she might come sooner than the others. I was wrong. Because of my history of long pregnancies I worked longer this time around – until 39.5 weeks. With Emily I stopped around 37 weeks and with Winfield I stopped at 36 weeks.

Friends gathered and surrounded me with love at a lovely mother blessing to prepare for the birth and release fears. I prepped our birth room with fairy lights and affirmations and art and the whole family contributed to Liesel’s table – full of special things. Around 39 weeks, Liesel’s pattern was to wake up and be incredibly active from 11pm-2am – so I would wake up with her and work on positioning (since she was moving around so much) – so lots of hands and knees, sitting on the ball, and dancing – lots of dancing. Her playlist was ready to go. She liked lyrical, jazz, and pop music. This late night dance morphed into prodromal labor each night for several hours, the uterus was doing lots of things although no noticeable patterns emerged, much like jazz. I would eventually go to sleep and wake up a bit disappointed that labor hadn’t begun.

The birth itself is best told by the time stamps of text messages and phone calls to the birth team.  I should mention that my birth with Emily spanned 2 days and was over 40 hours and Winfield’s was about 20 hours.

In the early hours of May 4th, I had Aaron feel Liesel’s nighttime movements and I told him, “I feel like she is going to bend her knees and shoot out of me like a rocket.” And that is pretty much what happened later that day…

On the morning of Thursday May 4th, I woke up early, disappointed that I wasn’t in labor yet and read three birth stories of friends birthing their 3rd babies. Two of the three stories involved pretty quick births and those two birthing mamas were part of the birth team – this was preparing me for later in the day.  At 12:47pm, I was texting with my friend and birth photographer, Lindsey. She was going to be out of town the coming weekend and she sure hoped Liesel wanted her at the birth. I told Lindsey that there was “definite uterus activity each day and night, but no patterns yet.”

A short time later, around 2pm, I told Aaron that there might be a pattern emerging, and I was going to start timing what was happening. At 2:30pm, I told him the uterus was warming up with small contractions every 2 minutes. He gave me a look, but I said they were no more than 30 seconds long and I could walk, talk, and do life so no big deal. Just the warm up. I called my midwife and spoke with friend and midwife assistant, Shawna, and just told her the warm up was beginning.

We decided to go for a ride to get a part for the birth pool and so that our two older kiddos could nap in the car. The 2 minute pattern continued and I decided to give the rest of the birth team a heads up that the warm up had begun.

So at 3:15pm I texted that I was having easy regular contractions every 2-3 minutes, 30 seconds long, easy to talk and breathe through, no bloody show and that I would keep everyone updated as things progressed. I spoke with my friend and midwife Nannette as well, who was just leaving a birth.

We got home around 4pm and I went inside while Aaron stayed in the car with the napping kiddos and to take a short nap before getting the birth pool ready. My mother-in- law helped me get the bed ready with plastic and sheets on top and we got the pans out to boil water to warm the birth pool. I made a snack (cinnamon toast and honey roasted peanut butter –  yum!), texted a few friends letting them know that I “thought” I was in early labor and that I was going to take a nap, but not to worry if they didn’t hear from me for a while, after all my other labors were 40 hours and 20 hours. My friend Tania pointed out that if it was the 4th or 5th of May, she would have a fun birthday :)

At 5:20 or so I woke up from my nap and when I stood up it felt like I most likely had some bloody show – woohoo! I needed to go to the bathroom and sure enough there was a little blood. I also had to poop. It was a messy poop and then the contractions started coming quicker and I needed to breathe through them a bit more. As I was sitting on the toilet I texted Aaron something like, “I hope the birth pool is set up and you aren’t still asleep.” I didn’t get a response or see that he read the message, so I called him and a very sleepy sounding husband answered the phone. I said he needed to set up the pool and he sprung into action.

I kept trying to wipe my butt clean in between contractions but I never had enough time, so I would wipe wipe and then sit for a contraction, and wipe wipe, sit for a contraction. I eventually got it clean. I just remember thinking that I didn’t want to birth the baby in that bathroom and I needed to get downstairs. I also remember thinking that if I get in the water, everything will slow down. By now the contractions were 1.5 minutes apart and lasting 45 seconds to a minute long. With my now super clean butt, I headed downstairs, Aaron takes one look at me and says “is anyone on their way?” I say “I don’t know, just light the candle.” (the candle was from my blessing way and meant to be lit during labor).

I head over the couch, knees on a pillow leaning on the seat and begin to call nannette and text the rest of the birth team in between contractions, as Aaron is trying to get the birth pool ready..

This was all around 5:45pm – I spoke with Nannette who heard me breath through two contractions and she said she was on her way and would be here within the hour. My text to Lindsey and Andrea (friend and doula) at this point said, “Contractions much more intense, a little blood, 1.5/2 min apart, and 45 sec to 1 min long or so. no vocalizing yet.” So I still wasn’t actually telling people that they should come. A few contractions later, I then added to Andrea “Can you come?” and to Lindsey “I’m so hot.” So they were on their way.

The contractions had picked up and were more intense and I needed some counter pressure. So, Aaron, in between caring for Winfield (who had woken up, Emily was still asleep) and setting up the birth pool would come over and press on my back. He had a minute of helping me and then a minute to do other things. His mom had to help through one contraction as well (thanks Sharon!) as he was busy doing things. Eventually he had to give up on the birth pool (he forgot to put the liner in and so was emptying the water already in the pool and was about to start again) and just stay with me because things were happening fast. I started vocalizing, loudly. And then things were just happening. I felt something come out and I said “something is happening” and it was my water bag coming out and bursting. I switched positions and was leaning on the birth ball at this point with Aaron behind me on the couch. He could actually feel where Liesel was moving down to, so could really help me direct my energy to the specific place in my body as she moved through. It was crazy and fast and then I was pushing with no way not to push.

Liesel is born-8
Aaron didn’t have gloves or pads down or water or oil or a trash can or anything (and apparently there was lots and lots of poop (sorry babe!). I was aware that I was birthing this baby and wondered how my perineum would do without oil or a warm cloth. At 6:45pm, Lindsey arrived. Her presence was wonderful as she let us know she was there, holding space as Aaron continued to guide my energy and I let go into the beautiful chaos of this birth. I was pushing, Liesel was coming. About 5 minutes later, Nannette and Grace arrived to find Aaron touching and holding the head of Liesel as she was crowning. Her head was out, he switched places with Nannette as she instructed me to another position to help Liesel maneuver her shoulders out. Shoulder dystocia is rare, but not necessarily a surprise in precipitous births. Nannette calmly did her thing and with two hands inside my vagina working the shoulders, she asked Liesel to move her shoulder in order to come out. I heard her ask and knew in that moment that all of the prenatal visits (every single one of them) where Liesel would only let Nannette hear her heartbeat after being asked had led to that moment in the birth. And sure enough, with the asking, permission was granted, she moved her shoulder and out came my beautiful flower, Liesel Florette.

She was here! In 1 hour and 20 minutes my baby was here! It was insane and wonderful and hilarious and crazy and adrenaline filled. It was letting go and not thinking and being wildly grounded in the sacred journey of birth.

Her cord was crazy short or tightly wound (I didn’t see it) and so she could only be on my lower belly. I looked around and saw Andrea (hi! – I had a baby) and the team and my son and older daughter and husband – who said “that was easy” to which I laughed and said “so easy”.

Liesel is born-157
Liesel Florette, 11 pounds 4 ounces and 23 inches long. So glad she arrived safely, and so thankful for the perfect timing of the birth team and the amazing birthing skills of my husband. Thank you Aaron, Sharon, Emily, Winfield, Nannette, Grace, Shawna, Andrea, Lindsey and, of course, Liesel.  What a crazy ride!

Liesel is born-163

Birth photos credit: Lindsey Welch Photography

Read the birth story of Liesel’s big sister Emily

Read the birth story of Liesel’s big brother Winfield

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Click HERE to learn more about the Community Birth Stories Project or to submit your own birth story

Community Birth Story: Saoirse

Community Birth Story: Saoirse

As told by Nannette:   12642790_10205936114948161_8485059573286676699_n

I have to tell some back story first. I never wrote my birth stories for my first two children, which I plan to rectify starting here.

Jonah was my firstborn. I had just finished my nurse-midwife training program and taken my board exams. That was a long grueling 3 years, during which I got pregnant and miscarried. I discovered I was pregnant with Jonah just weeks after I passed my midwifery boards. The news arrived the same day our miscarried baby would have been due. Bittersweet. I was a young midwife just starting her homebirth practice, and I knew immediately I would have a homebirth with my son. My mother had cesareans for all 3 of us. But it was for a known problem related to an auto accident messing up her pelvis. I never doubted that these strong Irish hips could handle childbirth. There were not many choices of midwives in my area, but we settled on a very nice midwife and started the journey. I convinced my husband, who had just started his first full time job, to invest the time in Bradley classes (along with my best friend who was going to be at my birth as support and photographer). Things bumped along, I was having a healthy pregnancy and was busy with side jobs while I started my little homebirth practice. My due date came and went, but no biggie, I was a primip. Weekly visits with the midwife became concerning, though, as my son did not engage in my pelvis as he should have. When I passed the 42 week mark, and he was still not engaged despite regular bouts of prodromal labor, I went to see my “backup” hospital midwife on a Wednesday afternoon at 4pm. We had a BPP done, and it wasn’t great. And they told me Jonah (I found out he was a boy at this point) was 12.5 lbs, which frankly scared me as a first timer. And he was still not engaged. And my hospital midwife, who had been my preceptor in midwifery training, looked at me and bluntly said, ” you know the answer, Nannette. You just need to make up your mind.” I cried and asked to be induced (which wasn’t a good idea because he was so high in my pelvis and showing signs of stress), and then I accepted that my son was going to be born by cesarean. I looked at the doctor and asked to have it done right away. “If I go home, I don’t know if I can make myself come back.” So Jonah Graham was born at 7:21pm on June 29th by cesarean section weighing 10lbs8oz. It was a surreal experience. I was on automatic pilot for a lot of it. One thing I remember the most was how I panicked and almost cancelled the plan when I was getting the spinal anesthesia (they stuck me several times and kept hitting a nerve, which was excruciating and nearly sent me into a panic attack). The spinal finally took, I got draped and swabbed, the docs did their thing, and when I heard them lift him out of my stomach I didn’t breath again until he cried. And then I let myself break down. That was the start of a long, dark slide into postpartum depression. A story for another day.

Fast forward 10 months. I am in the middle of getting help for the PPD when I become pregnant again. We had treated Jonah for torticullis and we linked his malposition to an injury that I had had around 36 weeks that apparently had really torqued my pelvis. So with regular chiropractic care I was confident this was a problem that would not repeat itself. I was working with a midwife that was confident in VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean), and I decided to plan a homebirth for my second baby. I worked through the PPD and the emotional issues that surround having a VBAC, and reached 36 weeks with our baby girl. She turned breech at that point, and it forced me to stop working and pay attention to her. We did 2 weeks of alternative/complementary techniques and successfully turned her back to head down. I then got extremely ill from the flu about a week before her due date. Not cool. In hindsight, I should have been hospitalized. On Easter Sunday, my 40 week mark, we were eating dinner with my husband’s mother, and contractions began. They felt like the prodromal ones I’d had with Jonah, which was encouraging! They slowly intensified through the night, and at 7am the next morning I was dealing with them in the living room and prayed for a clear sign because I wasn’t sure if I was being a wuss about them or if I was really in labor. Than, hallelujah, my water broke! It was on! My labor had started spontaneously at 40 weeks and 1 day! Major VBAC milestone! I was in active labor by late morning, but it was a really rough day. I constantly vomited and became dehydrated, and also had some terrible pelvic pain which even the chiropractor could not resolve with a visit while I was in labor. I reached 8 cm and the contractions started to wane. I nearly fell asleep in the pool. And it wasn’t the good sleep that midwives are thankful for, a pause to gather yourself. It was an exhaustion borne of utter depletion. I called my birth team and said, “I know I can do this. But I don’t think I can do it here.” And with that we called the hospital, praised God that Dr. Baltierra was on, and I counted in my head the 4 contractions I would endure in the car for the ride to the hospital. I got to JMH, checked in, got an epidural, eventually got an IUPC and pitocin to get contractions going again, and about 5 hours after I arrived at the hospital I woke up in a panic because the epidural WASN’T WORKING ANYMORE!!! And lo and behold I was complete and ready to push! They hiked me up and got out the mirror and at 5:39am on April 2nd, 2013, I pushed my beautiful 10 lb daughter out in 20 minutes! I did it! I birthed vaginally! And then I blacked out when I sat up to nurse and we discovered I had been severely anemic, probably an effect of the severe flu I should have been hospitalized for, and I had to get blood transfusions even though I had hardly bled with the birth. I also suffered some SPD damage and couldn’t walk normally for several weeks. But it was worth it for my VBAC!!

So fast forward 2 years. I was a very busy homebirth midwife at the time. I had recently gone through some very stressful transitions in my business partnership, and was praying for a year without change, just some stability so I could heal from the pretty bad emotional trauma. My daughter was weaning, and I knew that a pregnancy was possible soon. I am lucky enough to not ovulate until my babies stop nursing altogether. My cycle started, and repeated, and as the third round was finishing I looked at my husband and said, “all bets are off, you know.” We didn’t attempt to prevent, and sure enough, there was a positive. As stressful as it was, I was also thankful for the gift of another baby. I knew I would not be able to keep up the pace I was at with another child, and made the decision at that point, after a lot of prayer and counsel, to grow my homebirth practice instead of close it. God was watching out, and at the same time I decided I would hire one or two midwives, I was contacted by 2 midwives who were just what I wanted for Riverside. So I entered the second trimester with a good plan for work/family balance and the knowledge that this time I was going to get a proper maternity leave. I was so thankful for a healthy pregnancy. It was the best of all of them. I had good help, I was getting good sleep and exercise, I didn’t gain weight until the last few weeks. My belly measurements were consistently on track, which was better than my first two pregnancies which had always measured ahead, so my midwives thought this baby was going to be smaller which was nice to think of having had 10+lb’rs. I had amazing community support and was shown so much love by truly incredible women I am blessed to know and work with! I even got a surprise mother blessing! Jonah and Tabi were in love with the baby and so interested and involved in the pregnancy. I had an ultrasound but the baby wouldn’t play the gender reveal game, so it was really a surprise! We had a boy name and a girl name, Jonah and Tabi were excited to be there for the birth, and my midwife was really wonderful for me, a great pregnancy all around. I was “due” December 29th, so Jonah was expecting a Christmas time baby which just blew his 4 year old mind with anticipation. Christmas came, and went. New Year’s came as well, and went. The week after came. And went. And the mind games that accompany going overdue began. Thankfully, this was not my first VBAC, I knew my body was quite capable. And I thought this was a boy baby, so I figured maybe my boy babies just go late. I was encouraged and supported, and got wonderful help from friends and my fellow birthworkers during this time. I didn’t do anything really aggressive to start labor as I wasn’t worried over anything. I was fine, baby was fine, it was just taking a bit. I had a cervical exam at 41 weeks or so, and it was favorable, and I got a BPP done at 42 weeks, and it was just fine. But going overdue is emotionally taxing, and I cried on more than one morning when I woke up still pregnant. I worked on a labor music list. I crowd sourced some suggestions for music with a heavy bass line that would just carry you along without thinking. I didn’t to think too much. I’m a midwife, and know a lot, and I didn’t need to go down certain lines of thought. I was fine, baby was fine, my midwives were relaxed, I was just gestating a while.

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On a Wednesday evening April 13th, 42 weeks and 1 day, I had some regular almost-contractions, and we inflated the pool just in case. But Thursday morning, I woke up well slept and still pregnant. On Friday evening, some good friends took my kids to the local Backyard Inflatables while I got acupuncture. I was relaxed, and we made plans to get some Glory Doughnuts for breakfast the next morning. You should definitely get doughnuts from them some time. Ah-mazing. So Saturday morning, January 16th, I woke up around 6am. The house was quiet, and I felt like getting up and just hanging out by myself. I had a few of the usual braxton hicks as I was sitting in my rocker petting one of the cats. I noticed they had some good pelvic floor pressure to them, which was an encouraging thought as that meant baby’s head was where it should be. But they were just BH as usual. My husband got up around 8:00, kids were sleeping in from getting worn out playing the evening before. We did a few chores, and I mentioned the doughnuts plan. So he left at 9:00 to get some. I took a picture of my sweet sleeping kids, climbing up on the bunk bed (timestamp 9:26am). No contractions. Just a nice, quiet Saturday morning. My midwives texted to check in. One midwife mentioned coming by to do some things to maybe encourage labor. I let her know I’d had some braxton hicks that had a little pressure to them, but that my kids weren’t awake yet so I didn’t think labor would start knowing they were about to get up. Then, I had one. A painful contraction. Not too long, but definitely different. Jonah woke up at 9:40, came downstairs. I had another one. I sent him to watch some cartoons and realized I had been a little short tempered with him. I had another one. I decided to go upstairs, and couldn’t get up the stairs before another hit. Well, well! I made it to my bathroom and texted my husband, “on your way back?” (timestamp 9:57am). My midwife texted a two part question, and I barely had time to text back “yeah”. (she later said she immediately knew it was time to come, that was not a usual texting style for me). Within 20 minutes of the first contraction I was in full blown labor. I could only stand, I had the sudden fear of my water breaking in my pants and undressed. I started vocalizing. I remember thinking vaguely “if it feels better to make noise then I must be in active labor?” The contractions hurt. A lot. And were fast. I couldn’t time them. I couldn’t text or call anyone. I couldn’t do anything. I tried to kneel, and couldn’t handle being bent and stood right back up. I paced around the bathroom, and kept saying in an attempt to keep myself grounded “this is how babies are born, this is how babies are born, oh God, this is how babies are born” as I experienced huge amounts of pressure with seemingly eternal contractions with hardly time to breath twice between them (later the chart said they were 90 seconds long and 30 seconds apart, so I wasn’t imagining it). My husband got up there, got the pool filling, got the babysitter and photographer on the way, texted the midwives (or called) to make sure they were enroute. In short he did a great job getting things in place and rolling. I starting feeling lightheaded and a little panicky, the contractions were even stronger. Chris, one of my midwives, arrived at 10:40. I started to cry and kept saying they hurt. She was very calm, listened to baby with the doppler, and started getting things out. She encouraged me to try to get in the pool. I felt locked in standing mode, afraid to move lest the contractions get EVEN stronger. But I managed to scoot over to the pool and climb in (at 11:00 per the chart). As I sunk into the water the next contraction crested. That was kind of awful. The feeling of my belly getting buoyant but then getting driven down in the contraction. The next one was better though, and I settled into the pool. The contractions got a little more spaced, maybe a minute apart, but then I started feeling them in my legs. Thankfully I was in the water, the pain in my thighs wouldn’t have been great with standing up. I complained. A lot. And cried, and repeated that things hurt and that I couldn’t do this forever. But I mostly had my eyes closed and my face down making lots of noise. A little after 11:00 I looked up and Lindsey, my photographer, had arrived. Grace arrived at that point, too. Grace has been with me a long time. My first birth assistant when I started catching babies while pregnant with Jonah. My doula for Tabi’s birth. My friend. And planning to catch this baby as my student midwife.

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Bradley was there (I made a point to clock his presence as I had actually blanked out his presence at Tabi’s birth).

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I looked up at some point and saw Jonah sitting on the side of the bed watching me labor. Mary was there, my good friend and my children’s nanny, I never worried about Jonah and Tabi being cared for.

At this point I feel like I was being dramatic but just needed to be allowed to not have my s*%^ together for once. This labor felt like a tsunami and I was just rolling around in the water underneath. I think I repeated that I couldn’t do this for 6 more hours and Grace assured me it wasn’t going to be that long. After what seemed like FOREVER my water broke (timestamp 11:10). My midwife voice automatically asked if the water was clear, which it was.

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I had some urge to push with that contraction. And then I had a blessed, blessed, 2 minute pause. I came up for air. My head cleared. I thought, and I think I said, “I can do this part. I know how to push.” Because I did. I revisited how I had pushed Tabi out in 20 minutes, my first vaginal birth. And how proud I had been (and am) of that. I had no idea how long I had been in labor for, but now it was time to push and I came back to center. Everyone was quiet. My ears were kind of ringing. I don’t know how loud I was on the outside, but there had been a whole lot going on in my head and it had all stopped. That long, blessed, 2 minute break. And then the contraction came and the deep, throat/abdomen/pelvic “HUHHHH” started. My body was pushing. A couple of contractions, and I clearly felt the round head of my baby descend. It did not feel like pooping. It felt like a large round hard thing moving down in my pelvis. That was my baby’s head! I hadn’t felt this with Tabi, being on the epidural. It was AMAZING to be aware of it. I felt some burning and said something like “am I crowning?! Please tell me I’m crowning!”, to which there was no reply. Crickets. “Crap, I’m not crowning…” Next contraction. There was some burning, which I clearly identified to be at the place I had had a minor tear with Tabi’s birth. I was ok with that. I was breathing through these. Not really on purpose. I was just trying to ride these suddenly close again contractions that were pushing my baby out. All of my energy was focused, I had to stay stretched out, one hand out on the side of the pool, body extended back. A straight path for the baby. Nothing in the way. My body doing its thing like I’d know from my first pregnancy that it could. I breathed and grunted and didn’t add any pushing effort and the baby came down and around and I felt the head birth. So amazing. I heard Jonah and Tabi’s voices, they were there at the pool side and saw the baby’s head and face. I had really hoped they would have that experience of seeing their sibling enter the world.

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A minute passed, and another. I felt midwives’ hands back there. No one was worried, though I wasn’t really looking at faces, and I wasn’t worried. I did have the sudden thought that this had been long enough and it was time to push baby out. So I did push to finish the birth. And then I heard those words, “grab your baby!” I reached down, and glimpsed cord around the baby’s neck as Grace did, we turned baby in the water to unwind the cord and bring baby up.Saoirse2016-35

And there she was. My baby girl. Born at 11:27am, less than 2 hours from the first recognizable contraction. “It’s done!” She took a minute to breath. It had, after all, been a fast birth. I gave her some puffs and stimulation to her back and feet she drew in her first air. Grace helped her with some postural drainage. I cried and thanked God it was over.

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Tabi was absolutely thrilled that it was a girl!! “It’s a girl, it’s Saoirse!”

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And she lifted her sweet little hand up and my baby was with me. Oh lordy. The tears <3

She weighed 9lbs 4 oz, nearly a pound less than my others. My postpartum experience was worlds away better. Resting in my own bed, being well taken care of, my children coming to see their baby sister. Normal, unhurried, quiet. As a midwife, I work hard to provide this experience to families. And I had finally had it myself. It was truly my best birth. And one of the best times of my life.

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Something came up the week after the birth that I want to include here. There is a blog that I follow, Birth Without Fear, by a woman name Jan. Last year she had described being pregnant again; she had had cesareans, than a VBAC, than another baby, and was planning a homebirth again. She went overdue, and one morning woke up and knew it was time to have her baby and had a walk in cesarean. She felt empowered, she owned her decision and experience. But she described having an emotional breakdown just before the surgery, and how she had realized based on her past birth experiences that she was transitioning emotionally at that moment as she was getting ready to meet her baby. It was an incredibly healing read for me. I had experienced labor in all its raw, unmediated strength. I had “lost it” for a bit, felt panicky, cried, let out a lot of emotion. And I realized that I had done that before with Tabi’s birth, when I woke up panicky and ready to push. And I realized that the moment when I almost broke down while preparing for Jonah’s surgical birth HAD BEEN MY TRANSITION MOMENT. Realizing that connected all my births. It healed something I thought I had been over in my experience with Jonah. I did birth him. I went through the depths emotionally, though not necessarily physically. I realized I had carried some shame about how I almost had a panic attack with the spinal being inserted at Jonah’s birth. And with waking up all freaking out at Tabi’s birth. But those were my transition moments. It’s just what I do. I have to let go for a minute. And just let things happen. And just birth my babies.

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Birth photos credit: Lindsey Welch Photography

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