Rowan’s Birth in the Quiet House by Christine Doran


There we were, my 2 ½ year old son and I, one afternoon in November, two weeks and two days before my due date. The Kid was up from his nap and we were lolling on the sofa having some “side” (his word for nursing). And suddenly, “flub,” went something wetly in my pants.

I told The Kid that something had happened and it meant the baby was going to come soon, probably today or tonight. Then I got up and did the same pointless flapping around looking for a pad and a large towel to sit on that I’d done the previous time. I gave my husband a call and mentioned that he might want to pack up and come home and tell them he wouldn’t be back for two weeks or so. I called the birth center and the midwife said to wait until I was contracting five minutes apart for a minute each and then ring again.

I repaired to the sofa. The Kid was looking worried and was ominously quiet. I asked him was he okay and he said, “Giant coming.” He’d been having nightmares about giants lately and I think it was his psyche manifesting the prospect of the baby as something big and scary. I tried to comfort him and sound as normal as possible. I didn’t really want to nurse him much more in case it made the contractions come too fast but I did nurse him a bit.

The Husband came home and made tea or whatever one does in these situations and I had some cereal and drank some water and made sure everything was in my bag and went to bed for a couple of hours. I didn’t sleep and the contractions started coming slowly but surely. I didn’t want them to go away entirely, so I got up after a while. I languished on the sofa and leafed through my Ina May Gaskin book to get me into the right frame of mind. I wanted to try and string things out until after The Kid’s bedtime, if possible. I told a bunch of strangers on the Internet that I was in labour but hardly anyone in real life.

Everything, amazingly, went to plan. The Kid’s bedtime came with as much normality as possible and no big promises of a baby tomorrow morning; though we did tell him that Alice might be here when he woke up. Our wonderful friend Alice arrived at 9 pm with her daughter asleep over a shoulder and we rang the birth center to say we were on our way.

It’s a 30 minute drive and by the time we arrived, the contractions were weaker. The midwife chatted to us, got our info and then said frankly that I didn’t look as if I was working all that hard and maybe we’d have to go home and come back in the morning. I resolved that the baby was just going to have to hurry itself up and get the show on the road. The midwife said we’d give it an hour or so and sat down to do some paperwork. The Husband installed himself in the kitchen with a fresh paperback. And I started walking the corridors of the empty birth center, weaving in and out of the rooms, rubbing my nipples shamelessly and thinking good thoughts about wide tunnels and open and down. Every time a contraction came, I tried to loosen my jaw and not clench anything, and think the baby down.

After maybe ten minutes, the contractions really did start to get long and painful. I’d lean over the bedstead or against the wall (where the midwife could see me so she’d know what was going on and banish any more silly notions of sending us away), and I began to wonder how I could possibly have suggested that my sister-in-law, newly pregnant, should attempt a drug-free labour. I decided I needed to go to the bathroom and was pleased to see that my body was getting everything out of the way in preparation for the big push.

I was still sitting there on the loo and I realised that I was still pushing even though I’d finished what I thought I’d come there to do. And I couldn’t stop it. And it hurt like the bejaysus.

I yelled in a strangulated sort of way for the midwife. The Husband came and hovered outside the door. I said “Come in” and “Get Megan” and saw that she was walking calmly by and putting on some latex gloves. Since my waters had broken, she hadn’t checked me when I arrived as that would make me susceptible to infection.

“I’m pushing!” I finally wailed as it really seemed that this was not transition but the actual real deal. This time both The Husband and Megan looked down and there was a head, crowning.

“Scoot forward,” said Megan, holding out her hands. I managed to move myself so that our baby wasn’t born straight into the porcelain and with one almighty push she came out. Megan said “Lift up your shirt”–so much for the clothes I’d brought to “labour in” and the nightdresses I’d brought “for delivery”–I was still wearing the tracksuit bottoms and red shirt I’d shown up in, and I believe I still had my knickers round my ankles. She put a pinky-grey, writhing, alive, slippy, tiny baby on my tummy. “I think it’s a girl,” said The Husband. “Is it a girl, really?” I asked. Megan confirmed that it was.

I walked (well, hobbled) from the bathroom to the bed holding my daughter to me, umbilical cord still attached and we nursed. After a while, The Husband got to cut the cord and my placenta was delivered with a little yank on the cord and a little push from me. They rubbed the vernix into the baby’s soft, soft skin and put on the obligatory hat.

We went home the same night, as per birth center policy. I had no tearing (hooray!) and my bleeding was very manageable and the baby was just perfect. We turfed poor Alice out of our bed, climbed in and The Kid got to wake up the next morning to find a new baby sister had sneaked in overnight.

The birth center experience was wonderful for me–certainly helped by my ridiculously quick delivery. The memory I’ll always keep of my daughter’s birth is that of the quiet house, with just us three in it, the calmness surrounding me as I worked on the contractions and how lovely it was afterwards in contrast to the hustle and bustle of a hospital.

Luke’s Birth and Sarah’s Gold Star

I knew rather quickly after Sam’s birth that I would not be able to endure that type of medical management again. It was only 3 months into Sam’s life when I started researching other options. I saw a facebook post about a waterbirth and was intrigued. Where did she have this opportunity that I wanted so desperately? I found out she went to Special Beginnings Birth and Women’s Center. From that moment, I dreamed of going there and delivering my own child.

Luke’s pregnancy was uncomplicated and peaceful, except for slight tension between Johnny [husband] and I regarding prenatal care. He was not sold on the idea of using a midwife in an out of hospital setting for reasons of safety. His concern was real and I did not discount his fears of losing me or the baby. However, I read a lot during this pregnancy and throughout my readings, the safety of non-hospital births with a midwife for a low risk pregnancy was reiterated over and over. Never in my entire life have I ever felt more validated through reading than I did during this pregnancy. I was amazed at how often I would read the exact reassuring words I needed to hear at that particular moment.

Johnny attended the first couple appointments at the birth center with me. However, we both agreed that I should make appointments on a separate day from our family day. The tension between us regarding the birth center started to dissipate after we implemented this plan. My mom or sister came to my appointments with me to help out with Sam. During the summer, my mom, Sam and I had a wonderful time on our day trips to Annapolis – something I will cherish forever.

From the moment we decided to travel an hour and 40 minutes for prenatal care, I prayed that there would be a clear sign that labor was starting. With Sam, there was no clear sign; I was comfortable walking around at 4-5 cm dilated. During this pregnancy, I feared that without a clear sign, I would be left to deliver my baby at the local hospital, instead of the preferred birth center.

The “clear sign” (no pun intended) came when my water broke in the bathroom at home. I was trying to help Sam sit on his little potty and as I bent over, the water gushed, quite relieving the extreme pressure in my lower abdomen. Sam’s precious comment as I stood there in slight shock: “mama, mess.”

Contractions stalled just past Easton. When we arrived at the birth center, I was contracting infrequently and frustrated. Johnny and I walked. I took stairs two at a time. I sat on the birthing ball. Nothing worked. Two hours after we got to the birth center, we did a non-stress test that was non-reactive due to lack of heart rate changes in response to a contraction. Fetal movement was minimal. All of this added up to a transfer to the hospital. It was 11pm. I was disappointed. I felt, however, that if we were supposed to birth in the hospital, then something would happen to encourage us in that direction. This was our sign and I had to be okay with that.

I avoided the question posed to me by the nurse regarding whether or not my bag of waters had ruptured [even though I was sure it was on my transfer papers]. I didn’t want to be placed on a time limit; especially in a hospital. After expressing my fears to Niki, I felt comforted to know that I was not on a time limit and that gave me freedom to relax.

I consented to intravenous fluids with the hopes that the baby’s heart rate and lack of movement were due to dehydration. It worked. I drank a lot of cranberry juice mixed with ginger ale. I questioned whether or not I could be released from the hospital. My contractions weren’t regular at this point and the vital signs for the baby and me were good. Allowing me to leave the hospital that night was certainly the most pivotal moment. I’m so grateful Niki realized the importance of the natural birth experience for me in the birth center setting.

A Super 8 next door looked really good at 4am. I slept so soundly between contractions that I would never have realized they were continuing at regular 10 minute intervals if I hadn’t been tapping the start/stop button on my phone. At 5:45am, the contractions were so strong that I had to sit up. I sat on the edge of the bed and rocked my hips back and forth and in circles to try and lessen the discomfort. I focused on my breathing in an instinctual way; not a learned technique. Almost immediately the contractions progressed to every 5 minutes for >1 minute each. The shower was wonderful and I stayed in there for about 30 minutes. It was very hard to get out, knowing that I had to finish getting ready, all while still having contractions. They were now 3 minutes apart for >1 minute each. Little did I know, but that was about as close to a waterbirth as I was going to get.

Laboring is hard work. And with little sleep and no food, I started to feel as if I was going to pass out. In one of those moments where you wonder how all the pieces came together, we found cranberry juice that we unknowingly brought from the hospital. I drank it, but all I could think about was a smoothie from Starbucks; a lot of calories and easy to get down. The last reason I was going to be sent back to the hospital was for low blood sugar, so we hurried to leave and stopped at a Starbucks a few doors down from the birth center.

It’s about 7:30am and I’m dying; or so I think. Looking back, I should have known this was transition, but there were very few clear thoughts being processed at this point. Johnny was inside Starbucks and I was inside the car, trying to stretch out in the front seat. I couldn’t fathom why people would want to park right next to us – didn’t they know I was going to have a baby? It was probably my only irrational thought during this whole process and every laboring women is allowed at least one. I called David again but couldn’t speak to him during the 2 minute contraction I was having, and I remember just holding the phone in the air. David said he’d be there in 10 minutes. Okay, I can do this for 10 minutes.

We got to the birth center parking lot and looking back, I wonder why we parked away from the entrance. But we did. I had to get out of the car immediately. And once I did, I realized that the baby was coming out. I could feel the “ring of fire.” A grounds crew worker was using a loud machine on the nearby grass and my oh-so-quiet-and-chill husband sternly told him to turn it off. I remember thinking it was “funny.” I told Johnny that the baby was coming and he said, “if David isn’t here in the next 2 minutes, I’m calling an ambulance.” I had a sense that David would be there on time and I didn’t panic. I did reach down to see if I could feel his head. I couldn’t, thank goodness.

In my most dramatic labor and delivery moment, Johnny and David carried me [“off the football field” style] into the birth center. I felt silly, but the baby’s head was so low, that I could not walk. I made sure I requested the purple room. It was the room I envisioned and I wasn’t going to let that vision go, even with the head coming out. I also remember asking if we could have a waterbirth. David turned on the water, but he didn’t think we would have time. Johnny undressed me and I got into the quadruped position on the bed. I remember thinking that this was absolutely the best position, especially since Luke liked to face anterior for most of my pregnancy. I had difficulty holding myself up. Johnny knelt on the bed and I let him have my full weight.

With lots of “ow, ow, ow’s,” Luke was born within 5 minutes of arriving at the birth center. David placed him face up under me and I scooped him up and propped myself up at the head of the bed.

I did it! I am super woman! I CAN do anything! Hands down the best feeling of my life. Complete euphoria. This is what it’s supposed to be like!

I held him close for 4-5 minutes before Johnny said: “Don’t you want to know if it’s a boy or a girl?” Oh yeah, I forgot about that. Quick check, and it’s a boy.  I turned to Johnny and said “Luke?” and he nodded. I had my Luke Henry. A name I was proud to use, as it represents both grandfathers.

David stitched up minor tears on both labia, but I had no perineal tearing! That might have been the worst part of it all! Johnny returned and we rested in the bed together. I actually fell asleep briefly and felt very refreshed. It was so calm and peaceful – exactly as I imagined and hoped for.

Niki, the midwife from the hospital, knocked and came into the room. We shared a nice hug that, for me, said a million things without ever speaking.

Later I showered and dressed in a black cotton dress with nursing tank top – I felt beautiful. I delivered a baby. I wanted to tell everyone. I was amazed at what I had just done hours earlier. Johnny was so proud, and that made the whole experience complete. My gratitude for the way we were able to work through this conflict is unending. My dream and vision for birth came full circle.

An obstetrician once told me that there was no “gold star” at the end of labor/delivery if I did it all natural. I would like to tell her that for me, there is a “gold star.” It’s called empowerment. And I’m so glad I can claim it.

David, Sarah, Johnny and Luke

Catalina’s Birth: “I didn’t want to make a mess!” by Gisela Bardossy

Gisela, Jose and Catalina
November 19, 2011: Welcome Catalina!

The plan for the day was to drive to Virginia to check out a car. However, while I was preparing breakfast I started feeling some waves that were more intense than usual (“wave” is the term for contraction in Hypnobabies) but still quite mild. The dealer was 45 minutes away from home in the opposite direction from the Birth Center, which was already 45 minutes away from home. For my first son, we didn’t make it to the Birth Center in time so I was taken to a hospital on the way there.

The waves were 5-6 minutes apart and 1 minute long but very mild. I just needed to pause for a minute while I was having them. However, after that, I felt perfectly fine and continued doing whatever I was doing. Just in case, we called one of our friends to see if she would be available to look after our son if needed. She was available so it seemed the perfect time to run to the Birth Center and get checked.

The waves at 2:30PM were 5 minutes apart, 1 minute long, so around 3:30PM we called the midwives. I was pleased to know that Joanne was on-call. She was also at the Birth Center waiting for another mom so it was not a big issue for her to just check me. Also Joanne was well aware that I was using Hypnobabies and judged it wise for me to go even if my waves felt very mild.

We called our friend and asked her to come over. When she arrived, Joaquin woke from his nap and was happy to see her. I continued to have waves on my way there but they spaced out. I wished there was a script that said ”every bump on the road, you relax more and more”or “every stop and go on the way, you relax more and more.” I remember joking about that with my husband after each wave. We arrived but by that time I felt completely ridiculous. I had to stop what I was doing but between waves I was completely fine. Joanne told me to go to my room. I refused, I preferred to go to her office and be checked there. I was ready to go back home to wait a little longer. We went to her office. The other mom arrived and Joanne ran to open the door for her. The other mom was quite loud. My husband and I started laughing, not at her but at the situation, I felt even more ridiculous. I put my pants back on. I was ready to run out of the door. After a while, another midwife, Niki, came to see how I was doing. I was doing great! I had waves but between waves I was laughing, talking, joking, and walking. We told her not to worry about us. We could wait and obviously the other mom needed help much more than we did.

We waited there for another 20 minutes or so, until the other mom had the baby, and Niki came to check me. She said that I was 5-6cm dilated. I asked if I could go home and come back later. She said that I could be admitted or I could go for a walk close to the Birth Center. We decided to go check out another car that was close by. We went back upstairs and decided to settle down before leaving. Quickly our plans started to change. After a few minutes I decided that we would just walk around the neighborhood, then just around the parking lot and finally, just inside the building. All this time I was in a great mood and laughing about how our plans kept changing. As the waves got closer it was funnier because I had to pause a minute and then I only had a minute or so to walk. I went to the bedroom and kneeled on the floor against the bed in a praying position. I found this position to be the most comfortable. It released any pressure on my pelvis and allowed me to rest and relax on the bed. While in the praying position, I recalled all the things that I have read in Ina May’s Childbirth Guide. I repeated to myself “open, open, open” and I would visualize my cervix opening and my baby descending, I would relax my jaw, and breath calmly and deeply so I could open up with every wave.

This time around, I didn’t enjoy the (Hypnobabies) scripts much. Often, I was battling the scripts because she would tell me to relax, and I would get very deep when I actually wanted to move around. I was ready to get my street clothes off and put some comfy PJs on. I did but the second I pulled my pants on, my bag of waters broke. I was not happy. I panicked! I had no other clothes to wear! Jose called Joanne and I ran to the bathroom where I sat on the toilet. I could envision a big mess and I didn’t want that. Joanne told me to get my butt off of the toilet and stop pushing. Pushing? Less than an hour had passed since they had checked me and admitted me into the Birth Center. I was fully dilated! I could push BUT I needed to get back to the room and on the bed. I fought her a little bit on that, I didn’t want to make a mess and the toilet felt quite comfortable and safe (mess wise).

I did eventually go to the bed and got on all fours. Jose sat by my side and rubbed my shoulder. I pushed one time. Joanne could see her head. While I was getting ready to push for the second time, I stared at Jose’s eyes and I told him “this is it” with a very big smile. I pushed one more time and Catalina was out. She was so beautiful and perfect. I turned around to get on my back and put her on my chest. The feeling was surreal. Everything went so fast, again, and smoothly. I was filled with joy. I could feel the hormones running through my veins. I was completely in love with my newborn daughter, I was so happy and I felt so radiant. She was born at 6:58PM. We waited until the umbilical cord stopped pulsing and Jose cut it. I nursed a few minutes until I felt I needed to push again and expel the placenta. Joanne found that I had two small tears. You might think that I have a very high pain threshold. Hell, no!

 

After that Joanne and the nurse left us alone in the room so we could enjoy the moment in the privacy of our family. An hour or so later, Jose left to get dinner. We were starving. I asked the nurse to hold Catalina for a few minutes so I could go to bathroom and shower. I got dressed and had Chinese food in the kitchen with Jose while the nurse completed all the tests on Catalina right there in our presence. I already knew she was tall. I could feel it in my belly. Around midnight we packed everything in the car and left to go home.

 

Our friend welcomed us home, met Catalina and left. Our son was sound asleep. We went to bed as well. We would introduce Catalina to Joaquin the next morning. So we did. He was extremely happy. I made Sunday pancakes.

I had the most wonderful birth experience. We think that we arrived at the Birth Center around 4:30PM so it was also very fast. (It took me longer to write this birth story than the actual birth.) I am deeply thankful to Ina May Gaskin and Kerry Tuschhoff (founder of Hypnobabies) for leadership and guidance on childbirth. I’m still amazed by the empowering effect these two people that I have never met had on me. We named our daughter Catalina May in honor of Ina May.

John and a Midwife are Born

We had just moved to Stillwater, Oklahoma, about a month before my son, John, was born. It was a 69 bed hospital, with 2 OB’s and 2 GP’s who birthed babies. I chose Dr. Vaught. I had taken a Lamaze course so did not want the usual saddle block and low forceps delivery that was the norm there.

I went into labor at 10:30 PM – just as the Johnny Carson show started and had a contraction every time a commercial came on – every 15 minutes then! I was ready to go to the hospital about 2 or 3 AM. I had to keep running to the bed and lying on my side in fetal position with each contraction. It took a while to get my bag packed that way! We woke my grandma up, and she said “Well you won’t need me there, call me when you have the baby.”

I was 8 cms when I got there and was so happy. But, alas, it took a while. I remember the nurse saying “Well you’re a little more dilated” or “the baby is a little farther down.” After 2 doses of pain meds and a trip to radiology for an X-ray pelvimetry, I was ready to push. I was a little groggy, but remember pushing just to the point where I felt that if I pushed a little harder the baby would just pop out. Next thing I knew I was in the delivery room, local anesthesia and a midline episiotomy, and thinking that Jack (my OB), was wearing his pj’s! He was in a gown, but no mask or hat as was usual for the time. Husbands were in the waiting room in those days. (Makes me sound very old!!) I pushed John out, saw him and said “It’s a John Edward!” I knew the exact moment to push more gently so his head would slip out easily.

I went to work in that hospital a few months later, on the OB/GYN floor. My obstetrician asked “Are you going to teach all the women to push as well?” There I learned my love of birth, and the rest is midwifery… Joanne Hasman

He's all grown up now!