The Natural Birth of Ashley Caleb
Eric and I have spent almost every day for 21 months preparing for a natural birth. We began when I was pregnant with Milo. All of our energy the last trimester of our pregnancy with him was spent researching and preparing to reach our goal of an unmediated birth through the Bradley method. Instead, Milo's birth was induced and highly medicalized thanks to complications from gestational diabetes. As soon as I recovered I began working towards our goal once again. I dedicated myself to a strict exercise regimen and diet to help start this pregnancy at a lower weight and hopefully avoid diabetes, and continued with it throughout the pregnancy. I watched dozens of birth videos, poured over birth stories, and followed bloggers that I thought would help us be successful. Eric and I researched local hospitals, obstetricians, and midwives, read and re-read books, and studied every birth documentary we could get our hands on. There was no reason why we should not reach our goal this time.
When I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes this time we knew we may face an induction, but our midwife, a CNM named Margann, was confidant we would not be facing an IV-Pitocin-epidural birth experience like last time. I stayed active, took the herbs she suggested, and by 35 weeks my cervix was already dilating and very soft. We had a decent chance of nudging labor along if necessary. At my 38 week appointment (at 37 weeks and 5 days) on Tuesday, March 15th, I was 2-3 cm dilated and had been having long periods of contractions that were slightly more impressive than typical Braxton-hicks. My midwife stripped my membranes, though she said it would likely not work this time because she couldn't reach well. I believed her as I barely felt it. We would do it again next week.
Must be an old midwife jedi mind/uterus trick to ensure it will work.
I felt very little cramping and had no spotting that evening. Sure that I would not be having the baby this week, I went ahead and ignored my half packed bags again that night.
On Wednesday the 16th, I woke up at 6:30am for daycare and felt like someone had hit me with a baseball bat in the lower abdomen about 1000 times, then once in the head for good measure. My uterus was suspiciously silent though, not a single contraction. Calm before the storm? Or did we just upset it by poking around at it?
After stumbling around in pain all morning, at around 11:30am I started losing a ton of bloody mucus. It was nothing like what I imagined, a little mucus and maybe some spotting. It was pink and purple chunks of mucus and who knows what else, and it just kept coming. I sat in the bathroom in shock. This had to be the bloody show. Oh God. We are not ready. I played chicken with my uterus and now I'm going to lose.
I'm not sure how to describe what happened next. It was almost like my brain turned into a computer compiling everything that HAD to happen before this baby arrived. Ninety percent of what I came up with probably didn't have to happen, like washing the sunroom windows or mopping under the bed, but for me they were mandatory prerequisites to labor. The next 6 hours were a whirl wind of cleaning products, contractions and sheer panic. I never slowed long enough to time contractions, I needed to out run them. I assigned jobs to Eric until I felt he wasn't taking my urgency seriously. I knew I looked crazy, I knew organizing the entry closet was not a real priority and that the bunk beds didn't need to be put together, but in my world, right then, it all had to happen. I started crying and told him to get out. He still helped but just stayed out of my way.
By around 7:30pm I was spent. I showered and settled on the couch to see if my contractions were regular. They were 7 to 15 minutes apart, not painful, but a little pinchy. Four hours later I still did not fully believe this was it, I decided to go to bed to see if the contractions would stop. I laid there for 2 hours and while they slowed, they did not stop and could not be slept through. I gave up at 1:30am. I told Eric he should try to sleep and went back to timing.
When contractions were 5-8 minutes apart I was having to stop almost everything to breathe through them and sometimes lean against a wall. I woke Eric up and told him to call my mom and take Milo to her. This was it! Oh but first we had sex because who knew when we would get to again.
Eric got Milo ready and left for my mom's and I got in the shower to shave my legs and wash my hair. I thought contractions might be nearing 3 minutes apart, but I would rather have this baby in the shower than go to the hospital before I shave my legs. I think the biggest lesson of the day was that I have no concept of priority when I'm in labor.
I finished getting ready just as Eric got home. Contractions were even more intense now, but I still made him stop and take some last belly pictures between contractions before leaving the house at 6:00am.
On the way to the car I had a strong contraction that radiated down my thighs and I had to moan through it. It was amazing to me that they could get so strong, but that they just went away after. It was nothing like my Pitocin induction. This was like a million little battles and I was winning them all so far! I called the hospital on the way and told them I was in labor. I answered questions between contractions. I noticed that my body was beginning to push with them. If I tried to not push it hurt so bad, so I just let my body do its thing. I could still breathe through them and I wouldn't consider them unbearable so I knew there was no way I was transitioning. The woman on the phone said it may be early for me to be coming in, but since I was already on my way to come in anyway. It was discouraging, I didn't want to face a whole day of contractions like this, but I tried to not think about it.
We got to the Dominican Hospital soon before 7:00am. I had to stop twice from the car to the front doors of the hospital for contractions, and two more times from the doors to our room. It took me forever to change into my gown between contractions. I was starting to feel a little panicked. These were a lot of work. I had to grab onto stuff and breathe and moan, but the staff was treating me like I was in early labor. I paced between contractions and leaned against the wall during, relaxing everything and letting my body press down. The nurse was so nice, she was very up beat and I felt silly working so hard in front of her. I was sure she was thinking "Wow if you think this is hard..." But I couldn't help it. I couldn't sit either, I felt like I was sitting on his head. I got on my knees at the foot of the bed for a few contractions, which were now making my whole body shake. I was still answering questions about my medical history and such. I finally asked "should I feel like I need to push?" The nurse's look should have been answer enough, "Um... no."
She had me get up on the bed and checked my cervix. All she could feel was my bag of water bulging through, so she got the charge nurse. The charge nurse checked me and then grabbed an OB who confirmed, I was 9 cm dilated. I could not believe it! It was like winning the lottery! That's it, I'm almost done, I did the hard part already! According to Bradley, labor is hard work, transition is the worst, but when you are pushing you are finally getting to do something and I remember several women in the books stopping between pushing contractions and saying "Oh I like this better." YEAH! Let me push!
They wouldn't yet though. They helped me breathe through those awful contractions and sometimes I couldn't stop the urge and my body would push anyway. It was awful, it hurt, and it felt like it would never end. My body just wanted to push! The best thing the nurse said this whole time was just repeating "this will end, it will come down." She could tell when I was about to panic and would say that, I was glad Eric caught it on video, though those contractions are hard to watch now because I did so well when I worked with my body, and suffered so much when I worked against it. It was around 8:20am.
My midwife finally came in but I was barely aware. I was just trying to survive. I was getting scared, everything was moving too fast. The nurses were excited. "Ok let's have this baby!" "This will go so fast!" And many comments on how calm I was, the "calmest 9 cm I've ever seen" one nurse said. I didn't know what to say, I appreciated their enthusiasm and compliments, but I was beginning to lose it. No where near calm. I suppose I was calm the way a deer staring down headlights is calm.
Everyone prepared for my midwife to break my water, and the moment she did my body started to bear down. I can't emphasize enough how involuntary this pushing was, or the immense power behind it. It was like I was exploding from the inside, only there was a bowling ball keeping it all in and all that pressure was behind it.
In that first horrible moment, a thousand thoughts came to me at once, like a really awful enlightenment. First I was angry at Bradley for writing that awful book and making me believe that I could do this. This was SO BAD! Who were those evil women who said pushing wasn't so bad, just hard work, and actually chatted between pushes? Who could possibly encourage anyone else to do this and not go straight to hell?
I was hating them all, I was livid that I had been fooled... then I realized that it was too late. I had to push and I couldn't fight this. It was going to hurt and it was going to suck, but I took a breath and pushed with everything I had for what felt like an eternity. It was terrifying, I couldn't stop to breathe anymore. I thought I was going to pass out. I was sure the baby was stuck and I was going to die. Everyone kept saying he was right there and to push a little harder and finally, when I thought there was no harder, I gave just a little more and his head popped out. A second passed, no relief, my body bore down again and I pushed with it. It was so hard to push through something that hurt so much but I did anyway and he wriggled out and was placed on my belly. It was 8:32am, Ashley Caleb was here. He weighed 8 pounds and was 21 1/2 inches long.
Someone told me to open my eyes and I reached down to grab him. I just kept saying that I couldn't believe he was here. They gave him a little oxygen, but he never left my arms. I kissed him and was just so happy to finally be holding him.
I pushed out the placenta and the nurses all gathered around it because it was so big and had all these extra lobes. I hadn't torn at all. I was bleeding quite a bit so I was given Pitocin, Cytotec, and my midwife massaged my uterus for quite some time.
I was so happy, but at the same time I was in shock over what had just happened. I was trying to decide how I felt about it all. I thought I would feel an overwhelming sense of accomplishment over having given birth naturally, but I didn't. I couldn't believe I had put myself through that voluntarily. I wasn't sure I could ever do it again. I could tell from everyone around me that I had done a good job. Eric was beaming. I overheard a nurse say "What a great birth to start the day with!" And Ash, who had still never left my arms and was now happily nursing, was healthy and staring up at me with bright clear eyes.
I have decided that it was hard, but I brought him into this world the safest way possible. I took no risks with his health or mine. Physically, I felt amazing very soon after. No soreness or pain or medications to get out of my system. I have a lot to share about our hospital stay and my recovery, but you will just have to wait for another post because right now I have a hungry little baby to tend to.
Promise: Indication of something favorable to come.
Affirmation: Something declared to be true.
Faith: Trust, hope and belief in the goodness or trustworthiness, of a person, concept or entity.
Most of us have truths we lean on in life. When it comes to birth, these are my scriptures and my marriage vows. They are promises that I feel have earned my faith in and inspired my passion for birth. I thought I might revisit them as we wait for our third little one to choose his or her birthday, and share them here with you
"We are made to do this work and it's not easy... pain is part of the glory, or the tremendous mystery of life. And that if anything, it's a kind of privilege to stand so close to such an incredible miracle." - Simone in Klasson 2001
"And the courage that she showed, the endurance, the sheer power of getting through contraction after contraction, I was just so inspired, so touched to be so close to something so primal and raw and vulnerable as she was during those hours, so thankful that she let me be a part of it. And I knew I would never be the same person after having witnessed it. I got home about an hour later, my face a mess of tears and snot, and told Jon, 'I can't wait to give you what that birth just gave me.'" - Heather Armstrong, blogger, dooce.com
"Woman really doesn't need to be rescued, it’s not the place for the night in shining armor. It’s the place for her to face her darkest moment and lay claim to her victory." - Cara Muhlhahn, Certified Nurse Midwife, The Business of Being Born
“It is as great a crime to leave a woman alone in her agony and deny her relief from her suffering as it is to insist upon dulling the consciousness of a natural mother who desires above all things to be aware of the final reward of her efforts, whose ambition is to be present, in full possession of her senses, when the infant she already adores greets her with its first loud cry and the soft touch of its restless body upon her limbs.” - Grantly Dick-Read, Childbirth Without Fear
"...for that half-minute before birth I held her hands and for that duration we three were undivided." - William S. Wilson
“Remember this, for it is as true and true gets: Your body is not a lemon. You are not a machine. The Creator is not a careless mechanic. Human female bodies have the same potential to give birth well as aardvarks, lions, rhinoceri, elephants, moose, and water buffalo. Even if it has not been your habit throughout your life so far, I recommend that you learn to think positively about your body.” - Ina May Gaskin, Ina May's Guide to Childbirth
“How you approach birth is intimately connected with how you approach life” - William Sears, The Pregnancy Book
"Nothing compares to the privilege of giving life and the responsibility of that. Nothing. So if you don’t have the reverence and respect for that, where do you go from there?" - Nadine Goodman, public health expert, The Business of Being Born
“The power and intensity of your contractions cannot be stronger than you, because it is you.” - Unknown
"Birth is not only about making babies. It's about making mothers; strong, competent, capable mothers who trust themselves and believe in their own inner strength." - Barbara Katz Rothman
"Nature is kind, and always gives breaks." ~ Dr. Robert Bradley, Husband-Coached Childbirth
Being born is important
You who have stood at the bedposts
and seen a mother on her high harvest day,
the day of the most golden of harvest moons for her.
You who have seen the new wet child
dried behind the ears,
swaddled in soft fresh garments,
pursing its lips and sending a groping mouth
toward nipples where white milk is ready.
You who have seen this love’s payday
of wild toiling and sweet agonizing.
You know being born is important.
You know that nothing else was ever so important to you.
You understand that the payday of love is so old,
So involved, so traced with circles of the moon,
So cunning with the secrets of the salts of the blood.
It must be older than the moon, older than salt.
- Carl Sandburg, "Being Born is Important"
And I thought I'd share one of my favorite birth videos. I love the joy in Whitney's voice when she lifts up baby Austen, and her midwives words:
"This is it. She's chosen this birth. She's chosen this birth."
We are almost 41 weeks pregnant and while we are eating out a little more since I really don't feel like cooking, I'm still trying to put together simple healthy meals for the family. This has been a big go-to the last couple weeks!
This fajita, taco thing was inspired but Chipotle's vegetarian burritos... only I like mine better! I highly recommend making your own tortilla's for this, it really makes a difference and it's not that hard, I like this recipe at Bran Appetit! Hold the cheese for a vegan option, though I'd add a little more beans to make up for the lost protein. Protein: 22g for two (will be slightly less with vegan tortillas).
Serves 4 or so people, I'm not sure how many fajitas exactly.
Extra virgin olive oil, enough for a couple turns around the pan
1/2 cup of brown rice
1 medium bell pepper
1 medium onion
1 can of black beans or pinto beans
1 can of corn
Lime juice from one lime
Whole wheat tortillas
Get rice started, cook rice as directed.
Heat evoo over medium and add sliced onion and bell pepper. Sprinkle some ground cumin and chili powder lightly over the top, more cumin than chili powder. Cook til tender.
Rinse and drain black beans and corn and in a separate pot heat through.
When the rice is done sprinkle in a generous amount of cilantro and squeeze a lime over top. If you have fresh cilantro feel free to chop add that instead of dried, just watch how much, it can be overpowering.
Serve in warm tortillas with cheese. Sour cream, avocado, and diced tomatoes are great toppers as well.
Natural Birth Series
Sept 28 – Nov 15
Infant Sleep for Expecting & New Parents
6:30pm - 9:00pm
Gentle Cesarean: Planning & Recovery
Toro Park, 3-6:30pm
Natural Birth Refresher
Salinas, 1– 4pm
Preconception & Early Pregnancy Class
Salinas, 1– 4pm
Sibling Prep for Parents & Kids
November 4th & 5th
Toro Park, 2:-4pm
Fall Home & Birth Center Birth Series
Nov 7 – Dec 12
Natural Birth Series
Nov 29th – Jan 17th