[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.
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.
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