Beautiful VBAC Homebirth Video

The kiss at minute seven is more than I can take. The love between this couple has a radius so big, you can’t help but fall in love. I am so happy that folks are brave enough to share these amazing images with the world so we can all see the beauty of birth. I feel privileged to be part of this awesome, sensual & intimate moment in time as a stranger peeking in to take a view. (Another awesome birth with my Midwife Kelli Johnson, btw.)

Birth Story: Kindle Rose

[Michelle & Michael Bergandi welcomed the smiliest little gal this side of the Mississippi at home this past December. I love the journey this little lady took her family on leading up to her arrival. I laughed, I cried, I winced, I cheered. Welcome earthling! ~julie]

“We must attempt to tell the whole truth about birth, the truth that includes the transformation, mastery, satisfaction, personal power and the difference between pain and suffering.” –Cheri van Hoover

At the start of our pregnancy journey we knew that we wanted to give our baby the best start possible, and we began reading to find out exactly what we believed that to be. I had always known that I wanted to give birth naturally but not given much more thought to birth until it was definitely in my future.

I first read Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way and learned about the mechanics of the birth process, what interventions occur in modern American hospitals, and what we would need to do to obtain the natural birth we desired in a hospital setting. Since we were planning to stay with my obstetrician, we needed to understand how to best manage the impersonal medical environment for an event that we held so sacred and spiritual. The Bradley Method seemed to offer that balance, so we began there. We even took some Bradley Method classes and learned all kinds of detail about the physiology of birth.

Next, I read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. For the entire first half of the book, which is comprised of natural birth stories at The Farm in Tennessee, I cried. I was so moved by the beauty of childbirth, the miracle of nature’s design, and the power of women and midwifery, that I found tears in every story. I knew that these feelings were the ones I wanted surrounding my birth – I wanted to feel empowered to make healthy choices for my baby and myself, to be educated about every option we faced, and to be supported in my desire to birth naturally.

I learned of our over 30% national Cesarean section rate while the World Health Organization suggests only 10% is appropriate with a maximum of 15%. I read statistics of all kinds, and I discovered that if I wanted a natural birth it would be nearly impossible in a hospital, which would require energy spent resisting a system that we felt should be devoted to birthing the way we knew was right for our family.

So, at 16 weeks, when my doctor and his assistant tried to scare me about my “excessive” weight gain by informing me of my advanced risk for gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia, that was the last straw. Even though I had been following Dr. Brewer’s Pregnancy Diet and tracking everything I ate, they never once asked about what I was eating, nor did they care that my diet was wholesome. They just told me to eat less, and that when I was hungry I could eat celery. I finally lost it. I spent the whole appointment in tears trying to understand how my core belief that birth is natural and normal could possibly blend with this model based in fear that denied a woman’s intuition.

We decided to investigate other options, and fate brought us to Midwife Diane Albright (All Bright Beginnings), as we considered the possibility of a home birth. We had lots of questions for Diane, and she gladly answered all of them with a calm confidence that assured us that home birth was safe and normal. She explained the equipment and medical supplies that she brings to births and how she would handle various complications that may arise. There was no fear in her office, just strong confident women. We left her office feeling like a birth at home might really be a possibility.

We spent a few weeks weighing our options, and at 20 weeks, we switched to Diane as our care provider and began the journey toward a home birth. All of our prenatal visits with Diane were joyful and upbeat. While she was always watching out for possible complications, her focus was on a normal, natural, healthy birth. She believed so strongly in the ability of a woman’s body to birth that she found no need to get caught up in the “what-ifs” (we know because we tried all the “what-ifs”). At our first visit, she requested that I log my diet for her review. Since I was already tracking everything, I simply provided the information at our next visit. She never once expressed concern about my weight gain and was pleased overall with my diet.

I continued investigating nutrition and decided to stop eating meat – a direction I’d been moving toward for a long time. Halfway through my pregnancy, I became vegetarian; and this time I was able to do so in a well-balanced healthy manner. Mike supported my decision even though he did not make the same choice for himself.

We became more and more of a team at pregnancy as we searched deeper into the values behind our decisions. What truth emerged for us was that pregnancy was not just about growing a baby; it was about growing as people and a family, and it was an opportunity to sincerely investigate what core values would guide us on our journey together. Mike and I discovered more appreciation for each other as we were continually reassured of why we chose each other for life partners and co-parents.

Along the way, I read Painless Childbirth, which helped me uncover some real fears about childbirth that I had not identified before. Once my fears were on the table, they lost their power; and I learned to focus on the positive potential of a natural birth. I credit this book with much of my emotional preparation for the birth and for keeping my focus on what I could do rather than what might go wrong.

In the last few weeks of my pregnancy, I read Spiritual Midwifery just for fun. It was so joyous to understand clearly what pregnancy and birth entailed. I felt like I could really have an active part in creating a healthy birth environment and making decisions about my care.

Two weeks after our original due date, we went to church. If the baby wasn’t coming yet, we were going to be with our spiritual community and center ourselves for the birth that was now imminent. The gathering call that day was I Know this Rose Will Open; and as we read the words, Mike and I both recognized that we were supposed to be there that morning:

I know this rose will open;
I know my fear will burn away;
I know my soul will unfurl its wings;
I know this rose will open.

We were struck by how appropriate this hymn was to our exact circumstance. Just that weekend, I had been working hard to recognize and acknowledge any lingering fears I had surrounding the birth and help them clear away so that labor could begin. In a metaphorical way, we knew that this rose would open and that all we needed to do was allow the process to happen. And from a literal context we planned to give our baby the middle name of Rose. We knew the greatest opening was just around the corner.

Kindle Rose was originally due on our first wedding anniversary. We were in awe of the synchronicity and knew that she was meant to be. Two weeks after our original due date, we were talking with some friends after church and I noticed a pretty acute backache to the point where I wanted to sit down. I dismissed it as pregnancy pains from my huge belly pulling on my back and did my best to keep up with the conversation. But we left soon after, as I was quite uncomfortable. We stopped for lunch and then headed home. My back was sore and I was tired, so I laid down for a nap. 
 
I slept well for two hours while Mike helped a friend set up for a party. When I woke up, I made my way over to the party. I was noticing some menstrual-like cramps, still had the backache, and was feeling sort of excited inside despite my discomfort and exhaustion. I was glad for the distraction of conversing with friends and enjoying good food. Knowing that I needed more distraction as we suspected that this backache could last quite a while, Mike and I decided to watch a funny movie when we got home. I tried to stay comfortable and cope with the backache during the movie by bouncing on the birth ball and rocking on my hands and knees. 
 
We finished the movie with a heating pad on my back, and Mike got moving cleaning up the house realizing that the birth was near. At 11:40pm, I finally went to bed so that I could get a good night’s sleep if labor was in fact coming. I wasn’t in bed five minutes when a contraction came over me like a wave. For so long I had wondered if I’d know when active labor really began, and with that one contraction I had no doubt. I decided to try to ignore it and go to sleep anyway because obviously I would REALLY need the sleep, but I checked the time just in case another contraction came. Fifteen minutes later, another contraction came. Then they started coming every seven to fifteen minutes – nothing consistent. I finally got up, because sleep was not going to happen and I needed to tell Mike. 
 

Michael & Michelle

Everything I had read about labor told me that the beauty of it is that you always get a break in between contractions. I was hungry, so I was getting contractions and squatting, thinking I’d be able to get up and prepare some food for a few minutes in between; but there never seemed to be an “in-between.” They were inconsistent and didn’t seem to let up. Only once in a while could I distinguish the start and end of a contraction. I had to give up on cooking and leave Mike to finish. 
 
By 1:00am, I could hardly talk, save for short, strained bursts of exclamations. I tried bouncing on the birth ball, walking around and squatting, but everything was very difficult and the sensations of the contractions were intense. We couldn’t track whether the contractions were five minutes apart or not, but I knew that we needed to call our midwife, Diane (www.allbrightbeginnings.com), anyway. Labor was definitely progressing quickly. After some conversation with Diane, Mike informed me that she was on her way and that we should get the tub set up for some relief. Since the tub would take a while, I took a shower hoping for some relief. While getting clean felt good, the water was not much relief and I got out.  
 
A few days before, we had decided to put the tub in the baby’s room instead of the living room as originally planned. This way, I would have the option of some privacy if I wanted it. I had painted and decorated her room to be relaxing for me, so the space seemed perfect for labor and possibly birth. I got in the tub and tried to be patient as we waited for it to fill up with warm water. Unfortunately, I wasted the hot water in the shower, so Mike was only able to fill the tub a small bit and then took to boiling as much water on the stove as possible. 
  
April, Diane’s midwifery student, arrived first. She came in to get some vitals and see how things were progressing. I was trying my best to stay calm in the shallow tub water as Mike went in and out with pots of hot water, but I was overwhelmed by the intensity of the contractions and couldn’t get my breathing slowed. 
 
Shannon, Diane’s birth assistant, arrived next and immediately set to coaching my moans lower and breaths longer. I was irritated by her insistence that I do what she said, because it was very difficult and uncomfortable. But once I found my rhythm of long, low moans, I was set with everything I needed for the rest of the labor. Shannon’s coaching was the turning point in my mind. 
 
When Diane arrived, she wanted to check my dilation. I almost didn’t want to know, in case not much numerical progress had been made, but another part of me was curious and wanted to know. I had to get out of the tub for her to check me, and I went to the guest room bed right next door. When she reported that I was six centimeters, I felt a boost of confidence that I could really do this. I got back in the tub and kept going. 
 
At some point my parents arrived and set up camp somewhere else in the house. I was too focused for visitors, so for the most part it was just Mike and me in the baby’s room. 
 
Occasionally, Diane would advise that I get into a different position for a bit, either on the toilet or on the bed. The bed was torturous (I was, again, grateful to be at home and have the option of something other than a bed), so I would sit on the toilet backwards. My back was sore the entire time and the only relief was in the tub. While I was on the toilet, Shannon would try massaging my back to help, but for some reason I just felt more nauseated. Mike stayed by my side keeping me warm with towels.  
 
Diane checked my dilation again while I was in the tub and I was eight centimeters. I definitely felt like I was in transition, as the nausea was increasing and the contractions were more intense. I knew I needed to let go no matter what, so when I threw up I found quite a bit of relief. I felt my whole body open more, and I knew we were getting close. 
 
At some point during transition, someone asked me if my water had broken yet. To my knowledge it had not, and I started thinking that breaking my water sounded good. It seemed like transition would never end, and I knew that breaking my water would help move it along. Back to the bed we went. I was a “stretchy nine” centimeters at that point. Diane explained to me what she was going to do, showed me the sterile crochet hook-like instrument she would use, and made a small hole in my water bag, reporting that my baby had a full head of hair. Having assumed that my baby would be bald like I was at birth, I was even more excited to meet this little creature with a full head of hair. 
 
Once I was back in the tub, the contractions came like a train – there was hardly any break, if any, in between, and the momentum was full steam ahead. They were also more piercing once her head was directly on my cervix. I kept saying “I’m not getting a break!” and started to panic a little. Shannon came back and reminded me to breathe deeply and keep my moans low. I moved from side to side, from my knees to my back, tried everything to get comfortable. Mike followed me around the tub and held me in whatever position I explored. It was very hard work, but I knew I could do it. 
 
Eventually, I started to feel like pushing. I asked Diane if it was ok to push – I just wanted to be sure everything was ok. She said that if I felt like pushing, I should push a little. So I went with it. Everyone started coming in. I could see through the blinds that the sun was up, but I had no idea what time it was. I hadn’t asked all night. 
 
Everyone crammed into the little 10′ x 10′ bedroom: Me in the tub in the center, Mike behind me, and everyone else along the wall – Diane, Shannon, April, my mom and my dad. Three cameras were flashing, and I was so in the moment that none of it affected my progress. Shannon coached me a little on pushing, and then Mike helped keep me focused. As I pushed, my mom was exclaiming how she could see the baby moving down in my belly. I could feel her turning and moving inside, especially in between contractions. Diane encouraged me to feel down there when her head was almost crowning, but I didn’t want to. I just wanted to get it over with. She convinced me, though, and I reached down and practically stabbed her in the head, thinking that she would be further up. It was so incredibly surreal that I exclaimed, “There’s a head coming out of my crotch!” and everyone laughed. 
 
I kept pushing and she kept moving down. April was applying counter-pressure to my perineum, and as the baby started to crown I felt a lot of sharp pain. I thought April was pinching me, but Diane said it was just my body opening for the baby, so I kept going. It turned out that the baby had both of her hands by her head, and April was able to get one hand back in by pinching it but the baby wouldn’t retract her other hand. The rest of the pushing was very painful. I had read a lot of birth stories, and again and again they talked about pushing feeling relieving and even “fun,” but pushing was the hardest part for me. 
 
Once her head came out, it wasn’t long before her whole body slid out and April and Diane helped me bring her to my chest. The second I saw her it felt like someone knocked the wind out of me. Suddenly I couldn’t breathe until I just cried. She was crying this little newborn cry, she was all purple and wet, and her nose was squished. And she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I was overwhelmed with emotion – elation, disbelief, gratitude – and I tried to thank everyone even though they were all busy taking pictures or throwing towels on us. It was a dream come true, and I had no idea how to react. Mike held me, and I held the baby, and the three of us cried together. 
 

Welcome Kindle Rose!

She was a big baby, and everyone was guessing at her birth weight. We were pretty much between eight and eight and a half pounds with our guesses. When April lifted the scale and Shannon reported the actual weight, we were all in disbelief. She weighed 9lbs 12oz at her birth! I consider it a tribute to water birth, loving support, faith in nature’s amazing design, and the good fortune of a sufficient bone structure that I was able to birth her naturally. 
 
Kindle: v. To cause to glow; light up. To become bright; glow. To be stirred up; rise. [Middle English kindelen (influenced by kindelen, to give birth to, cause), probably from Old Norse kynda.] 
 
We named her Kindle Rose. “Kindle” because she brought us together in a new way that felt like the lighting of a deep flame, and we know that her life will bring light into the world. “Rose” because she is a flower born of our love, the most beautiful opening of our hearts into a family. 
 
 Kindle Rose Bergandi 
Born December 7, 2009 at 9:42am 
9lbs 12oz, 21 inches

Heather’s Birth Stories

These two birth stories are from my dear friend, Heather Ashton Black, and each birth could not be more different. Big love to mama for having faith in her ability to birth naturally after her first experience in the hospital.

Jadon’s Birth Story, Hospital Birth

Jaydon and his little brother Dax

Jadon and his little brother Dax

I moved to Florida from San Francisco when I was 8 months pregnant with my first child. When, during my very first doctor’s appointment here, I was asked when I would like to “schedule my birth,” I knew that this Dorothy had landed on the wrong side of the rainbow! Shocked by the question, I answered, “When he’s done cooking!” and assumed that would be the end of their interference attempts…sadly mistaken. As my due date approached and I continued my prenatal yoga, swimming, and herbal teas (feeling quite good all around), I wrote up my birth plan…all natural, minimally medicinal…and brought it in to my doctor, who refused to sign it (much less, look at it) because it would just “annoy the nurses.” Well, she was right about one thing!

I woke up at 11am (obviously pre-baby J) on August 12, feeling somewhat wet down there, but certainly no movie-style gusher action. I had menstrual-type back cramps, but nothing exciting…I definitely did not think labor had begun, just figured I was very pregnant and uncomfortable. Continued resting through the backache until my husband pointed out that these cramps were consistently 5 minutes apart…hmmm. Yay, were we finally about to meet our baby?!

We went about the morning, assuming I was in labor, but still not quite convinced. I brewed up some raspberry leaf and Mother’s Milk teas and started rolling around on my yoga ball, practicing deep breathing that was feeling deeper and better than usual. I decided I wanted to get this ball rolling, so we went for a walk and that’s when I had my first “oh, okay, this is real” contraction. The contractions were intense, but exciting as I knew that soon I would have my baby in my arms! After the walk, I took a very long hot shower, directing the spray mainly at my lower back, which felt great. Then some more rolling around on the ball. The more I moved, the more steady and predictable the contractions were, and the more excited I became. At around 6pm, we figured we’d been laboring well at home and must have progressed, so we went in to the hospital. And that is where my happy natural labor ended.

We were first admitted into triage for a labor check, where I was told to ditch my comfy clothes for a fashionably assless paper gown. I was then propped up on the table for an internal check, during which time the curtain was flung open so many times for random nurses to carry on their discussions with each other, that I finally had my husband physically hold the curtain closed so I could stop the embarrassment of flashing the world. Ha, little did I know, that was only the beginning! I was told I was 3-4 centimeters dilated, 100% effaced…I now know I should’ve packed up and walked out, but at the time I thought I was doing pretty good. Maybe if even one of the medical personnel had taken the time to give me that “good job” positive vibe, I would have continued on in my happy state and progressed unhindered. Unfortunately, from that point on, it was a very “us against them” feeling…not very conducive to opening up and letting nature take her course.

Kisses

Kisses

We were admitted to a delivery room, where we were told to leave my yoga ball at the door as it would be in the way. So the only movement I was allowed was the small bit of stretching and rocking my husband and I were able to pull off utilizing a hard tile floor and a hospital bed (and that was only before they had me permanently strapped into the fetal monitor)…so Zen! I was adamant about having no I.V. but it was policy that I had to have a vein open, so I had to have a heparin lock inserted. How much easier for them later when they would convince me to have “just a little Stadol” to take the edge off! I knew that I wanted to go drug free, but they assured me that this was very mild, nothing at all like an epidural. Well, true, not an epidural, but still an intravenous drug, which I had never experienced before, recreationally or otherwise. It succeeded in making me dumb and clumsy and in giving them a reason to decide I must now be bed-ridden. In hindsight, it all becomes so clear…

So there I was, flat on my back, strapped up to beeping machines, exposed to the world under glaring lights, hearing the tapping of impatient toes, wondering why my labor was not progressing. At least my nurse wasn’t missing her t.v. shows (yes, that’s right, the t.v. was on too). So much for my dim lighting, oils, and music…not a chance! The situation was totally annoying for me and I felt like everybody was annoyed with me for taking so long. While nurses kept popping in to go about their routines of cleaning and chatting, delegates from the family camped out in the waiting room kept coming in to check how we were doing. It created within me a total feeling of performance anxiety, like I was just holding up the show for everybody.

Now, at this point, I was still in “Laborland” (as described in the book, Birthing from Within), where I was not consciously actually aware of the time. People were making it obvious that we’d been at it for a while, but my mind/body was still attempting to grace me with the gift of going inside and focusing only on the task at hand, rather than on external factors. That soon would change.

As my mom began getting obviously frustrated that the nurses wouldn’t break my water, it began dawning on me that maybe we were in pretty deep here. Speaking of water…so many hours into this grueling exercise, I was sooo thirsty! But, being that from the moment you step into a hospital, they are preparing you for emergency action, you are not allowed anything in your tummy, not even water! So, my husband was forced to clandestinely fill my cup of measly ice chips with water, which he would sneak to me whenever the nurse wasn’t looking. What healthy athlete would run a marathon with no hydration?! Why then is a mother forced to go for hours of intense exercise with no sustenance?! Hospital policy, of course…taking a natural process and turning it into a medical emergency for years now. So, many hours in, with nothing but hidden sips of water and bad vibes to go on, shockingly, my labor was not progressing very quickly. I was told that we would soon need to prepare for a c-section if we did not do something to speed things up. With my only obvious choices being accepting Pitocin or being cut open, I went for the drugs.

Well, I guess the Pitocin worked. It certainly brought on the pain! It made the contractions much stronger, but also very erratic, with no predictable ups and downs. Soon after the Pitocin was administered and I was 8 centimeters dilated, clenching every muscle in my body with pain, the epidural-administering vampiress arrived and I gave in to her continuous offers. I must admit, the epidural did allow me a bit of much needed rest. I slept for a little while, which was probably helpful; however, when I awoke, I realized that I was officially no longer in my la-la-laborland. My focus was completely on things external, no more going within and breathing through contractions. I was excruciatingly aware of the clock, noting the passage of every 5 minutes, still with no baby. Also when I woke up, I could feel everything in the areas where I suppose one would not want to feel. All that the epidural had succeeded in doing was rendering one leg completely useless and making me unable to work with my contractions to push successfully. Now my husband had to move my legs for me, my mom had to tell me when to push, and the nurse maintained her helpful position by rolling her eyes and telling me I was “breathing wrong.” And when I felt the need to use the bathroom, as is typical late in labor, I was offered a bedpan. Talk about performance anxiety! Not exactly the peaceful and empowering birth I had pictured.

Slowly, slowly, labor progressed and my son worked his poor little intoxicated and battered self down the birth canal. The unknown doctor came in for his 15 minutes of glory, bellowing at me like a football coach to “Push!” and “Get it out!” I saw him take out a pair of scissors and go in like a vulture. I cried, “No, do not consent!” but it was too late, he cut me anyway. My baby was born soon after, eyes alert and wide in spite of the harsh spotlights. They immediately clamped his cord, before he had a chance to try out this whole oxygen thing, and he did not start breathing right away. The doctor was, of course, already gone, so the ever-helpful nurse asked my terrified husband to “run and get help.” Thankfully, by the time the NICU swat team arrived, my little tough guy was already yelling his discontent with the whole situation! Such unnecessary stress on all of us. After what seemed like forever of me repeating, “Give him to me, put him on my chest,” the nurse finished cleaning him up and doing her tests and I finally held my baby, put his skin against mine, and began nursing. After 24 hours of labor, what blissful relief for both of us!

Soon after, we were wheeled up to a recovery room, where we could finally enjoy some peaceful family bonding time. Peaceful, that is, whenever they weren’t randomly popping in and throwing on the lights to administer blood tests or clean the bathroom or whatever. They literally came in at 4am one morning and wheeled my sleeping infant out into the bright hospital to “run some tests” in the nursery…all in a day’s work for them! A friend came to visit the next day and I complained to her about the episiotomy pain. She asked if I wanted her to fill up the maxi-pad icepack for me. Huh? I rang the nurse about getting an icepack, and when she finally responded, she let me know that the time for ice had passed and I should be using a warm sitz bath now. She then delivered me a plastic-wrapped toilet-shaped contraption and left the room. That thing is still wrapped in plastic today! Oh well, just relaxing with my husband and my son was doing me good, even without any outside help. Thankfully, we had our baby rooming in with us and I was instinctually breastfeeding quite successfully. Before we were scheduled to leave two days later, I asked if I was supposed to see a lactation consultant. This shocked the nurse, who had no idea that I had even been nursing! Nothing like that personal care of really getting to know how your patient’s doing. Oh well, all that aside, we were blessed with a beautiful and healthy baby boy, Jadon, who is the joy of our lives, and I think that my previous natural preparations and fitness level led to a speedy recovery (the episiotomy was, by far, the worst pain during the healing period).

Now my son is almost two and I find myself preparing for the birth of my next little boy. I knew that I did not want a repeat of our first experience, and I decided to birth at a birthing center, with caring, experienced midwives and doulas rather than cold doctors. While I am grateful for the medical technology that we have, I now believe that it is so wrongly invasive to treat a natural process as a medical emergency! Nonetheless, I was still initially somewhat apprehensive about having no medical personnel around at all (although the midwives will accompany me to a hospital if a true emergency does arrive). My cousin gave me the book Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin, which shares many beautiful, natural birthing stories, as well as a history of birthing and where it went medically wrong, and it really eased my mind and helped me know I was making the right choice. I also read the book Hypnobirthing by Marie Mongan, about going within, relaxing yourself, and allowing your body to do its natural work in a peaceful way, and have found it (along with some Hypnobirthing relaxation and visualization cds) to be quite exciting and empowering. I did some research and visits and decided upon the Miami Maternity Center, run by Shari Daniels, and I feel very secure in their care. I am actually really looking forward to my next birth day…getting to experience to power of nature and how my body works with it as it was built for and intended. I am so happy to get to offer my next son a peaceful entry into this world and to have the opportunity to work as a team together as we expand our happy family. I know we can do it. After all, we women populated this whole earth before there were doctors!

Dax’s Birth Story, Birthing Center

Dax

Dax

I must first say “yay!” for the glorious mind/body teamwork connection! It may sound like b.s., but I’ve gotta say, my natural birth was far more peaceful and less painful than my medicated hospital one. I think that, because my first experience taught me how intense labor truly is, it made me take it very seriously the second time around. So I really did my prep work. I practiced yoga and breathing every night, swam and exercised on my yoga ball, enjoyed some prenatal massage, listened to the Hypnobirthing affirmations and relaxation cds as often as possible, and really studied the Hypnobirthing book. I also made it a point to block any negatives regarding birthing: no dramatic stories or tv shows, no reading about possible complications, no scary medical intervention talk. I trusted that I was in good hands, that the midwives would be able to help me through anything that came up, and that my body was built to do this. I truly believe that all the mental preparation made the physical aspect so much easier and even joyful!

At about 12:30am Saturday night, I started feeling a little crampy and figured it must be about go time. Knew I’d need my rest, so we went right to bed. The cramps continued through the night, not painful, just there enough for me to wake up sometimes and do some deep breathing. By about 5, they were obvious enough that I couldn’t really sleep through them, so I popped in a relaxation cd and just dozed for another hour. Again, deep yoga breathing, no pain, just sensation. At 6ish I got up and made some raspberry leaf tea (for uterine function) and took a long hot shower. The contractions were getting more intense and the hot water was so soothing. By 8 the contractions were enough where I’d have to stop what I was doing, but again, just big deep breaths until they passed…no big deal. By 9am they were very close together, so my husband called Shari at the Maternity Center. She insisted I eat some breakfast first for energy and then come in. (What a change from not even being allowed a drink last time!) We headed to the birthing center, where she told me I was already 9cm!!! Yay!

Once there, I got right into the hot tub…mmm hm! Threw in the Hypnobirthing Birthing Affirmations & Rainbow Relaxation cd and just laid back with my eyes closed for about 2 hours. The contractions were definitely stronger at this point, but I would just take in very deep breaths and hum them out until they passed…never opening my eyes or moving, just chillin’…floating felt great The midwives were so respectful of how I wanted my birth to be. Everyone spoke in whispers. The lights were dim. My music was put on or changed whenever I asked. Cold wash cloths and foot rubs were offered nonverbally. Everything was so mellow and peaceful. Were I not giving birth, it would have been a fabulous spa retreat! I felt the baby move down low, so I decided to try and change positions to get things moving. I got into a squat and almost immediately felt the urge to push. On the first push, my water broke (an interesting sensation I had not gotten to experience before). We put on my mellow music and I leaned over the edge of the tub on my hands and knees while my husband pressed on my lower back. I continued laboring like that, now pushing through contractions instead of just deep breathing. It’s just what my body told me to do. The baby was crowning, but not getting out, so I flipped over to be able to push with my feet against the tub. This is when I first felt the fabled “ring of fire.” Okay, that hurt, but I knew it meant it was almost over! Other natural-birth moms I had spoken to in my preparation had all told me to wait for the point when you feel as though you can’t go anymore…that is the finish line, your body psyching out your mind to score that last major rush of endorphins. I knew I was there, it hurt so good! Every push, the midwives said, “This is it!” But it wasn’t. So, they decided I should move to the bed so they could help me out.

Out of the water, they realized the one hang-up to my natural experience…caused by my previous unnatural one. The hospital doctor, in his rush to make tee time, had cut and stitched me sloppily and left a jagged band of scar tissue that couldn’t stretch. Thanks doc. So, they had to re-cut his mistake. Oh well, one more push after that and my 9 & a half pound handsome chunker was born! (And luckily this time, a woman familiar with woman parts, sewed me up nice and pretty :)

Whay a happy little dude!

What a happy little dude!

All in all, I only pushed for about 25 minutes (and that’s honestly the only part that I would say hurt…and then only during the actual pushes, with rests in between)! Daxton Ramsey Black was born at 12:31pm Sunday, 9lbs 3oz and 21.5 inches long. What a beast (my first was only 7.4lbs)! Before I was allowed to get out of bed, I had to eat something. The midwife student gave my husband some takeout menus and we ordered a delicious pizza. When he returned with our lunch, he found me in bed with a glass of wine (so much better than “relaxing” due to an i.v.drip) and having a leg massage …again with the spa treatment! It was as if we were actually human and had just gone through an intense and beautiful experience…imagine that! The midwives helped make sure that baby Dax was nursing comfortably…he would just lazily latch on between snuggles, no big deal (what a drastic difference from my poor little first guy who would grasp on fiercely, as if to say, “Don’t let them take me again!”) They then insisted that my new little family take a nap together. Five hours later, we were home. Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!!! Interestingly, from day one to right now as I write this one month later, this child has a much more mellow and peaceful temperament, only crying to get needs met, and then easily satiated…he has no reason to believe the world would hurt him. Lucky boy!

What a beautifully empowering experience. How fabulous to work with your body and your baby and nature! How wonderfully safe and comfortable it felt to be in the female hands of competent and caring midwives. We were so blessed to be able to enjoy our birth day in the peaceful, relaxed atmosphere of the Miami Maternity Center.

Shayla’s Birth Stories

Shayla give us  a great comparison of three births at different locations: a hospital, birthing center and at home (on purpose).

I am the proud mother of 3 daughters. My first was born in March 1982, my second in April 1992, and my last baby was born in November 1994. Each birth story was unique. Of course, no two are ever just alike. I encourage all expectant mothers to consider choosing a midwife for help with the pre-natal care and delivery of your baby.

With my first pregnancy, I was 21 years old and I did not realize that I could do anything but go to a doctor. Insurance was paying, so that was what I did. I labored at the hospital from Saturday night till Monday morning. The nurses at the hospital wouldn’t let me out of the bed. They told me that if I had a drink of water, I might barf on their shiny floor; “Can’t have that!” I would sit up, the nurse would push me back repeating “Relax!”

The doctor kept checking his watch and after a couple of commands to “push”, he yanked my baby out with forceps and put her in an incubator. They wheeled me into the recovery room. “I am going to breast feed!” I announced proudly. “But that means we’ll have to bring you your baby every 2 hours!” I was too tired and elated to be shocked by what the nurse said and by being put through what they deemed to be normal procedures. I had not had a sonogram, so nothing could ruin this beautiful surprise! My baby girl was jaundiced and so that meant a 4 day stay for both of us while she was treated under the bilirubin lights. The chaplan who made his hospital rounds exclaimed “You seem very comfortable with your baby!” However, the nurses were very glad to see us go. It was mutual.

That doctor had sewn the episiotomy carelessly. Ten years later, my midwife at the birthing center tsked tsked under her breath. She promised me a much better birth experience this time. And it was! The birth center was great! I went into labor on a Saturday afternoon, but by Sunday morning they whisked me to the hospital because I was “failing to progress”. My midwife attempted to help my cervix open with her fingers, but it just wasn’t happening. I cried as the anesthesiologist administered the pitocin and saddle block. Thank God my midwife did not leave me! I needed her to stand between the nurses and all of their beeping, blinking machines and my in-laws who were there to see their grandbaby born. Three big snips from the doctor’s scissors cutting the episiotomy are clear as a bell on the birth video. My baby girl emerged with the cone on the side of her head, the umbilical cord wrapped twice around her neck. My midwife stayed with my baby as the labor nurses rolled her on the warming table. Apgar score was 1 at one minute, then 8 at five minutes so my baby was perfectly fine. I was very grateful! My midwife had saved me from having a C-section.

Early in 1994, I woke with some pain. We had been trying to get pregnant so I was trying not to think that it could ectopic (a tubal pregnancy). I called my midwife at the birth center. “Come right over!” After a positive pregnancy test, we were scheduled promptly for a sonogram. There it was, a little group of cells and in just the right place. I sat with my midwife and she said “Your cervix healed perfectly, but …”. She could not guarantee me what I wanted for this pregnancy – a completely natural delivery with no trip to the hospital. I wanted them involved only if it meant life or death. What she had done for me with my second birth was awesome, but… I really wanted a completely natural delivery with my third baby.

My husband and I ran a small business. The phone rang and it was a midwife at a women’s wellness center needing our service. She was a midwife who comes to her client’s the house. Her record was three calls to 911 in ten years of midwifery! “Let me see your hands” I said. They were small. I had found my midwife! At my regularly scheduled appointment the day after my due date, my midwife examined and then gave my cervix a wiggle, giggling, “See you later!” My mom asked me, “See you later?” — I went into labor at 4:00 that afternoon. The calls went out and 12 of my favorite people in the whole world assembled to witness the bringing forth of life. I was jubilant! I would have what I wanted, a completely natural birth with all of my loved ones there with me.

My husband held me through every contraction. We felt the throes of nature pass through me together. How wonderful it was to move about the house and then just allow the waves that were opening my body to wash over us. I easily breathed the way we had been taught in Lamaze class.

I had a dear family friend, age 14 take care of my 2 year old there in the house. She saw her mommy dancing with her shirt off. She danced too! But mommy turned into a gruff, barking monster, just for a couple of minutes at a time. I continued throughout the night dancing in between contractions. The bliss I felt just kept expanding. I splashed in the bathtub, my cat observed from her perch on the rim. My brother-in-law and father-in-law shaded their eyes from my bouncing body. They didn’t know where I was, in the kitchen for a drink? on the couch for a break? would she give birth on the bed? I breathed, I danced! I groaned.

Finally, I was ready to push this baby out. My midwife’s stethoscope said she was fine. I alighted on the couch. My elbows compressed the cushions and my feet spread wide on the floor. She let me touch my baby’s crowning head! That velvety hair under my fingers was like nothing I had ever felt. “Can my husband touch?” “Yes” Yes, yes, yes! One more push and everyone cheered when they could see the baby’s ear!

She was born pink and smiling. No episiotomy. There was no gunk in her nose or throat! We sat glowing all together 20 minutes before the midwife suggested that we cut the umbilical cord. Apgar score at one minute, 9, and at five minutes, 9.

It was after 11:00 at night and slowly everyone made their way out the door. My mom helped me into my own shower and then into my own bed. My husband brought our baby in and closed the door. He unwrapped the blanket and together we counted pink fingers and toes. She slept on her daddy’s chest. I was high from this experience for 2 years at least. When I met someone new I would shake hands and say “Hi, I had my baby at home!” The next person would come along and again I would shake hands, “Hi, I had my baby at home!” Many people asked me, “Did you have her at home, on purpose?” “Yes! I had my baby at home, on purpose.”

Consider all the options carefully. Choose what is right for you. Seek out and find someone you trust for your pre-natal care and delivery. I hope my three stories have educated and inspired you. Happy pregnancy and delivery!

Birth Story: Letting Go

Mama Sune & Baby Anya

Mama Sune & Baby Anya

Anya’s Birth Story as told by Mama Sune Palladay

This is a story about a planned natural birth at a progressive hospital in San Francisco with a midwife. Not all went according to plan, but Sune caught onto the mantra of “letting go” early in the pregnancy and still was able to enjoy her unexpectedly early delivery with a regular doc.

I wanted to be married for 5 years before I had a baby. I wanted to be around 32 when I had a baby. I wanted an at home birth with a midwife in a birthing tub.  What you want, you sometimes have to let go of.

When I became pregnant, my boyfriend was my ex boyfriend. I had no medical insurance and no money to pay for a midwife. I was able to get state medical insurance, but that meant I had to deliver at a hospital.  NOOOOOOOOOO! Those were the first of many things I learned to let go of during my journey into motherhood.

I  decided to look at things from a new perspective. How can I make the best of this?  Step one was when I decided to let go of a few things that were keeping my man and I apart (and so did he).  Over the next 9 months, we went to counseling and worked things out.  I guess we just had to make room for each other!

I also decided to take a mindfulness based childbirth and parenting course. There, I met the director and teacher of the 9 week course, a well known midwife in San Francisco. She wanted to know about the type of birth I was planning. I told her that I wasn’t able to have the type of birth that I was planning and was sad about it. She gave me hope when she suggested that I go to St. Lukes, a local hospital that has midwives on call 24/7 (except for 2 days out of the month……) who also has centering group for pre-natal care (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!) where you can share what you are going through with other women who are due the same month as you are. The centering group ended up being a wonderful thing and had I been able to have my baby at home, I wouldn’t have had a chance to meet all of the other pregnant ladies in my centering program.

St. Lukes also had a low intervention rate (C-section/pitossin and episiotomys), they let you labor and deliver in the same private room, they supply a birthing tub and birthing balls, and they have a free volunteer doula service! Oh they also let your baby room in with you.

So, my newly revised birthing plan was to have a baby at 28, with my BOYFRIEND who I am getting along with again and rebuilding a loving relationship, while we are living in a studio apartment looking for a new place with more space and to deliver in a hospital with midwives who will let you labor in a birthing tub, but not deliver in it. Ok, this could work. I can accept this.

More letting go…………..

Our birthing class was great, but my boyfriend didn’t really like it. I had planned for us to go and it be this amazing experience that we both enjoyed and that brought us closer together……. he hated it. He would go and sit quietly and seem to be listening, but felt that it was usless information and that she didn’t really focus on the right things (in hindsight, I now conncure) like what to expect.  As soon as we would get in the car, he would complain about it the whole way home. Ok, at least he went.  I can handle that, I guess. Ok, so my class wasn’t all I hoped it would be, so what?

Even MORE letting go…….

Its March 12th, I’m not due to have the baby for another 3 1/2 weeks.  We finally found a nice place to live. Its a quiet place in the Berkeley hills, with hardwood floors, skylights, 2 bdrms and tons of trees (near a regional park!).  I couldn’t wait to move in and FINALLY get the baby’s space set up (we are sharing a room with the baby, but I wanted to get things in order and prepared for when we came home. You know, to make an easy transition?) That day, we load the Uhaul and I go off to finish my last day of work (I was to work the second half of the day).  At 2pm, I sit down to listen to my Hypnobabies CD and guess what happens?  My water breaks!

Ok, let go of the fact that you’re not moved in yet. Let go of the fact that you couldn’t spend a few more weeks relaxing and enjoying the last bit of your pregnancy. Let go of the fact that everything will be in boxes and the bed won’t be set up or the bassinet or anything baby related when you come home from the hospital (again, glad I didn’t have the baby at home this time!)  Ok, I can handle it.

We sent our friend to deal with the movers and unload our truck while we went to have our baby.

What?! Even MORE @#$% letting go?!

When we arrive at the hospital, they are surprised to see us so early.  They tell me that my midwife is off duty and can not be called because she is with her dad who is having open heart surgery.  :(  She sadly went on to say that actually that was one of the 2 days where there will no midwives on call, but a resident OBGYN from another hospital (a hospital who has a high rate of C-sections) will deliver my baby, and that HE is really good (no offense to guys, but I really wanted a woman to deliver my baby. Its like having a yoga instructor who has never done yoga. How can a man possibly understand what I need and what I am going through?)

Ok, guess I will have to do this! I spoke with the male OBGYN and gave him my birthing “PLAN” (ha-ha. I now laugh at this word)
I requested a natural childbirth, I wanted no episiotomy, I wanted my boyfriend to “catch” the baby. I wanted my baby to be placed directly on my chest, I wanted the umbilical cord to stop pulsating before it was to be cut (this gives your baby the last bit of nutrients she needs and isn’t so abrupt for the baby) I wanted my placenta to deliver naturally.
Three hours into labor he suggested that I get pitossin, because since my baby is early and my water broke already, if labor is delayed she could get an infection and it could cause serious problems.  Thankfully, I wasn’t affraid to take charge of MY birth and I declined the pitosin. All 3 times he suggested it. I told him that I trusted my body to do what it needed to do in the time it needed to do it.  He sulked at my statement, but knew that he had to respect it.

Its now 11pm and I am dealing with some intense contractions every 3 minutes. Damnit, every 3 minutes? Can’t I just have a 15 minute break please?  (let go of that, for sure!)

The LPN checks me to see if I am dialated…nope, barely open she says.  Mind takes over; “Nothing I practiced or planned is helping the pain and its only going to get worse and I probably have so many more hours to go…………….I can’t do it. I can’t do it! GIVE ME THE EPIDURAL!!!!   NOW!!!!” By this point, it was easy to let go of my wanting a natural childbirth.  (It was afterwords and maybe a still a little bit today that I have problems letting of this. Maybe next time.)

Once the epidural kicked in, it was smooth sailing. I really was able to enjoy my birthing experience. They set up a mirror and I was able to see my sweet baby’s head and finally touch it (at the time I didn’t know what the gender was) I pushed for two hours and had the most wonderful easy delivery. I didn’t tear, her :) head wasn’t cone shaped, it went amazingly. But then, he pulled her out, layed her on my belly (not my chest) then the pediatrician said that she needed to take her to check her out. My baby is all the way over on the other side of the room with daddy, while I’m checking out the doctor pumping my belly to speed up the delivery of the placenta (a facinating organ, by the way. If your midwife lets you, have her do a placenta print on paper. My friend did this and the imprint of the veins on the paper look like a tree!). Five minutes after she was born I finally got to gaze into my baby’s eyes and attach her to my breast.

I had to let go of a lot of things during the delivery, but I am glad I didn’t have to let go of not wanting pitossin, a C-section,  or an episiotomy (one of the women in my birthing class had planned a homebirth and had to get a C-section. Talk about having to let go!).
All in all, I am grateful for my pregancy and birthing experience and now my motherhood experience (the letting go continues!) and I don’t think that I would have made room for these things in my life if I wasn’t able to let go of so many things.  I think I am a much happy person when I just let go.