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Birth

Over the summer of 2016, I spent 160 hours looking at the theology and ethics of Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. as part of my seminary studies. It was hard to spend that kind of time immersed in stories of injustice, contemplating racism, mourning over the little progress we’ve made, and trying to think of ways to be an agent of hope and change. But, however hard it was for me, it was only ten weeks. Many people live with these issues day-in and day-out and cannot simply walk away. That ability to walk away–to shelve the empathy and anger and uncomfortable smallness against such a giant evil–is a mark of privilege, of ignorance, or apathy. While I know many inclusively-minded people who embrace others no matter the color of their skin, racism is more than that. Color-of-the-skin racism is but one definition. The issue that is mind-blowingly complicated to me, the one that I cannot simply absolve myself of with kindness to all, is systematic racism.

In terms of systematic racism, the US has made little-to-no progress from King’s days on so many fronts: the urban poor, the war on drugs, mortality rates of Black mothers and infants in certain areas, stories of police brutality that are echoes of the Jim Crow South. If you are not sure what systematic racism is all about, I’m about to give you an example. I’m going to share my term paper research with you. I put a tremendous amount of time, prayer, heart, and tears into it. I’m nervous about sharing it. The mind-tapes say to me: it’s only Master’s-level work, I’m not an expert on birth or race, I’ve only been applying theology this way for so long , anything birth-related hits nerves fast, anything race-related hits nerves fast. But I pray that God will use it for good in some way. 

I want to offer a closing prayer up here, a word of hope, so it doesn’t get missed amidst the considerable footnotes (there are great quotes and stories in with the citations) and bibliography. So, read the paper right below the picture, and then scroll up back here when  you are done.

Dear God,

We could walk away from the heaviness we feel when we encounter stories of injustice.
But, may we not.  
May we instead find ways to
listen and support,
vote in the polls and with our wallets,
teach our children well,
and speak up as allies.

We echo Dr. King’s prayer:
“Eternal God, out of whose mind this great cosmic universe, we bless you.
Help us to seek that which is high, noble and good.
Help us in the moment of difficult decision.
Help us to work with renewed vigor for a warless world,
a better distribution of wealth,
and a brother/sisterhood that transcends race or color.’”

As we celebrate Dr. King’s birthday,
as our country moves into a new administration on Friday
which brings up so many feelings,
we offer a resounding
AMEN.

MLK Birth Racism Theology

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The Home Birth of Baby T

Baby 3 is here. It’s a boy, and he is now eight weeks old!
Baby T 8 weeks

 

Baby T was born on Father’s Day and is a dream come true in every way. To be a mother to three (three!) children is such a mind-blowing thing after a road to parenthood that involved loss and infertility. We are so grateful for our sons. They teach us and grow us every day. Baby T’s birth was also a dream come true in another way: he was born at home. This had been a dream of mine since I was a teenager when I babysat for a mom of three who was a lawyer, Bradley Birth instructor, homebirther, and later went on to be a midwife. When the kids were asleep, I would peruse her educational bookshelf. These readings left a deep impression on me. I learned that birth need not be a unbearably painful, drama-filled thing like in movies. I learned that birth is a process that harnesses the amazing design of the female body and our incredible hormones (the classic Childbirth Without Fear <affiliate hyperlink> is a good read on this).

Fast-forward many years: for V’s birth, we finally settled on a hospital birth versus home birth in the 3rd trimester for financial reasons.** The hospital, even with a doula, ample preparation, and self-advocacy, was not a fit for me.  For E’s birth, we knew we’d find a way to make the money work, as certified professional midwife (CPM) care was a vastly better fit for processing birth trauma as well as pregnancy with pelvic instability. But, with pending construction at our house, we opted to deliver at a freestanding birth center rather than home. It was an amazing home-away-from-home birth, with all the same (lack of) equipment as home, but we still had to load up, drive to get there, drive home, etc. So, for the third time around, we knew we wanted to be at home for the whole thing. Provided baby and I were healthy, it was time for the dream to come true! Now, here’s the story.

*Check out this irony: a hospital birth cost $11K-$30k+ but our part is $0 with insurance. In contrast, non-hospital pre-natal care and the birth is about $4k, but our insurance covers none of it.

 

The Birth of Baby T

Disclaimer:  this is a birth story. It involves bodily functions. I have not shared anything here that I am not comfortable saying aloud to you face-to-face. But, if you aren’t interested in such details, stop reading now. Read more…

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I was 24 weeks pregnant with my oldest son (I’ll refer to this as PG1) when I woke up one morning and felt like someone had kicked me between my legs. I felt bruised from the inside and outside. It was painful to walk but also painful to lay down on my side. I made an appointment with my OB practice and I was diagnosed with diastasis of the pubis symphysis, a more extreme version of the symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD) that many women experience late in pregnancy. Diastasis symphysis pubis (DSP) is such an extreme separation of pubic bones that they are considered dislocated.  For simplicity, I am going to refer to all of these as SPD in this post, but for the record: SPD can also be referred to as pelvic girdle pain (or PGP), pubis symphysis pain, and a few other names that may refer to the same specific issue or some broader ones, like pelvic instability, which may also refer to issues with the sacroiliac joint (naturally, when the front of your pelvis spreads the rear pelvic joint is impacted, too). The pelvis naturally widens during pregnancy, especially in late pregnancy, to accommodate for delivery. This increased pelvic girth and flexibility is part of a woman’s amazing ability to birth a baby. But for me, it happened too much and too soon. The obstetrician (OB) I met with at the time told me that my diastasis was the most extreme case he’d seen in over twenty years of practice, but there was nothing to be done save for taking pain medication and making some small comfort measures. Getting a second OB opinion didn’t yield me any additional hope. From a physiological standpoint, the doctors were correct— the gap wasn’t going to close itself during pregnancy. But, there is more to health and healing than mainstream western medicine’s focus on medication, surgery, or bust. For my next pregnancy, where SPD became intensely painful at just 20 weeks, I knew better and utilized many strategies to make the pregnancy considerably healthier and happier. So, here’s what I know now through two pregnancies and four years* of pelvic instability.

Symphysis Pubis

Location of the symphysis pubis

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By the time my second son was six months old, I’d penned his birth story and shared it along with gorgeous professional birth pictures. It was an amazing, empowering birth and easy to talk about. Writing my first son’s birth story was much harder.  I dreaded birth-related conversations. If I opened up with anyone, I lived in fear of hearing, “That was your traumatic birth? That was nothing,” or, “If you would’ve just gone along with X like everyone else does, you wouldn’t have been so upset”. Yet keeping my story in wasn’t helping either. As the months ticked by and thoughts about the birth were still keeping me awake in the night, I knew it was time to do something.

One of my doulas recommended Solace for Mothers (http://www.solaceformothers.org/) and I joined the pilot session of a birth trauma support group called Mothers Healing Together (MHT) (http://mothershealingtogether.wordpress.com/). Through the help of MHT, I was able to do the hard work of healing.

6 Healing Steps to Process Birth Trauma

So, what’s the deal with birth trauma anyway? Some people say ‘healthy baby, healthy mama’ is enough when it comes to a birth. For me—logical to others or not— that is not enough. Yes, the “destination” is imperative, but the journey matters, too. It is possible to both celebrate an amazing new life and mourn the journey it took to get there at the same time.

For example, if you completed a marathon, but got injured on the way, no one would say, “All that matters is that you crossed the finish line”. No, people would care about your twisted ankle; they’d want to hear your story, they’d admire your endurance. They would know that the medal is great, but the journey also matters.

Or think about college. Let’s say a professor unjustly accuses you of cheating. You have to fight to defend your character; you have to prove you really know the facts you allege to know; you are judged with a suspicious eye. Eventually, you still walk away with a degree and go on to a great career. Now, is that all that matters about that college experience the diploma you walk away with? Of course not. The story of those years matters. It shapes you. It changes you. The degree is there forever, and is something to celebrate, but the journey to it matters.

With my first son, I walked away as a relatively healthy mama with a healthy baby and a vaginal birth, but for all of those wonderful things to celebrate, the rest of the journey still mattered.  I had panic attacks for months after. I would wake in the night with thoughts racing.  My obstetrician confirmed I didn’t have post-partum depression, but he didn’t quite know what to do with my anger, pain, and questions.

Thankfully, I kept pushing for answers outside of his office. Over the internet and then through friends, I learned that there is a thing called Post-Partum Traumatic Stress Disorder (PPTSD), and it fit me to a T. For some, professional help is the wisest choice to move forward. For me, a support group was the right fit to propel my healing journey. Through that group, here are six things that I found most helpful: Read more…

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V’s Birth Story Part 4 — Delivery

Continued from Part 3: Labor Intensifies (or start at the beginning).

It was around 11:30 AM. Doula K and Doula J stepped out, as they were not allowed in the room while the anesthesiologist was there, per hospital policy. As it turns out, the anesthesiologist didn’t care if they were in there, but I let them stay away so they could grab some lunch. Realizing that I was selling out the vision of a med-free birth that I’d had since I was a teen, I started crying before the epidural was placed. The anesthesiologist was trying to be nice but made some sort of jerky comment about how lots of women think they can do it on their own and then he gets called in. It was so demeaning because in my heart, I felt this was a medically advantageous decision and not one that was about eliminating labor and delivery pain. I had made it through 50+ hours of labor without meds, a true ultra-marathon—triple the length of an average first-time mom’s labor—and now I was reduced in someone’s eyes to just another  compromising woman who couldn’t actually hack it. It felt like just lonely me against the world to the point that I still have no recollection of Dave being there (though he assures me he was).

After that team left, I worked toward getting in the side-laying position. Dr. M had said that even with the epidural it would be uncomfortable and most women could only manage a few minutes. I was resolved to make it work, no matter how long it took. We put on relaxation music, darkened the room, Dave and the doulas were quiet, and I focused on my breathing for as long as I could bear the pressure in my belly. I made it lying on my side for an hour, much longer than Dr. M had ever had a patient do before.

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Continued from Part 2: The Hard Work of Progress or start at Part 1

I went home physically and emotionally exhausted. It was at this point that fear and anxiety set in. I had always—well, from my late teen years when I heard about the Bradley Method through a family I babysat for— truly believed in my body’s ability to birth a baby of its own accord. But here I was, feeling that I’d read my body’s signs wrong, or that they had misguided me, and it was emotionally draining.  The length of the labor wasn’t the bad part—I had just told nurse that we’d waited 2.5 years for this baby, we surely could wait a few more days—but the beginnings of the realization that my body might not just make this work had set it. Thankfully, I was still largely a believer, just a believer with some innocence lost. And, I kept on going. I called my Bradley instructor and she was encouraging. At about 3 PM, I started having contractions again. They continued to be painful back labor contractions. I sat in the living room on the ball and watched Netflix to pass the time.

Friend Kelly brought us California Tortilla for dinner around 6. Nachos for me! I was sitting backward on a folding chair in the living room processing through regular, intense contractions again about 5 min apart. Later she shared she could have sworn from my contractions and my reactions that baby was coming very soon, like concerned-we-were-still-at-home-soon.

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Continued from Part 1.

For Baby E’s half-birthday birthday, I shared the story of his amazing, empowering birth (plus gorgeous pictures). Writing big brother V’s story has been harder.  At first, I was afraid to face my own story, but I moved beyond that and wrote and wrote. Then, I moved into being afraid of others hearing my story, that they would judge it: that was your traumatic birth? That was nothing or If you would’ve just gone along with X like everyone else does, you wouldn’t have been so upset. Ultimately, I decided that others judging it is ok. I’d rather share it and let a few people glean something helpful than not share it out of fear.

So, what’s the deal with birth trauma anyway? Some people say ‘healthy baby, healthy mama’ is enough when it comes to a birth. For me—logical to you or not— it is not. Yes, the “destination” is imperative, but the journey matters, too. It is possible to both celebrate an amazing new life and mourn the journey it took to get there at the same time.

For example, if you completed a marathon, but got injured on the way, no one would say, “All that matters is that you crossed the finish line”. No, people would care about your twisted ankle, they’d want to hear your story, maybe they’d even commend your endurance. They would know that the medal is great, but the journey also matters.

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After a challenging first birth, I joined a birth trauma support group called Mothers Healing Together to help me move to a place of greater peace. Our final exercise was to write a birth story for our child at his current age. V was one at the time. As he turns a big three today, this version is still how I tell it to him.

40 weeks pregnant
1 week post-partum

 

Birth Story for V

Mama and Daddy had so much love for each other that we wanted our family to get bigger so we could share even more love. We tried for a very long time to get pregnant with you and were very lucky to finally find a doctor that helped us.

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Birth Story: Baby E

Our dear E is six months old today! Here is the story of his birth:

Disclaimer:  this is a birth story. It involves bodily functions. I have not shared anything here that I am not comfortable saying aloud to you face-to-face. But, if you aren’t interested in such details, stop reading now.

Wednesday and Thursday, August 1-2, 2012
39 weeks pregnant

On Wednesday, I took V out for some fun at Fairfax Corner and he played in the spray area, then we got caught in a big, neat thunderstorm. That evening, I started having contractions. Many were about 10 min apart, but others were longer or shorter. It was over 5 hours of that. I sat at my desk at home and furiously tried to knock everything off my “do before maternity leave” list for work. I would pause to relax and breathe through the contractions, but apparently that wasn’t relaxation enough because the next day, I just couldn’t bounce back. So, I took off from work, sent V to be with my dad and stepmom, and spent the day in bed (save for an encouraging lunch visit from Jill and kids).

Friday and Saturday, August 3-4

On Friday, we went to a mid-day appointment with the midwives. It was time to broach the question of if I should keep working. Obviously walking, working, etc. was exhausting me into contractions, but yet I didn’t want to be sitting around waiting for two weeks for labor to start if I went to 42 weeks. One of the staff, Marina, a mama of ten kids, reminded me that it wouldn’t serve me well to use my energy on working all weekend only to go into labor exhausted. Midwife Mayanne agreed. She also confirmed that baby was still occiput posterior (OP) (face up) despite all of my swimming and chiropractic adjustment. I realized at some point that I was going to be plagued with back labor once again and that’s all there was to it. A few weeks earlier, I had been in tears about the prospect of another OP labor, but now I was armed with a “can do” attitude towards a very long, hard labor.

As someone who prided myself in my “work until the end” mentality, I knew stopping work was the right thing to do, but I ended up deciding to go in for one hour on Saturday to run a rehearsal. When I went in for that hour, any hesitation I had about stopping work went away. As soon as I stepped in the church, contractions started again. That building, for as much as I love it, is just physically hard on my body with the unyielding concrete floor. I pushed through that final hour and then went home committed to truly relaxing through the contractions and saving my mental and physical strength.

 
 
Sunday, August 5
 
On Sunday, contractions woke me up at about 5am and continued all day. I heeded the wisdom learned from Wednesday and stayed in bed. I relaxed through them and napped, I wrote a couple of babywearing blog posts, and I did stuff on the computer from bed. I used lavender essential oil to encourage a calm environment. I napped. The contractions were persistent, but not consistent in terms of time, and by 3pm I was feeling irritated and bored, despite knowing that all of this had value. Dave’s parents joked about how their food put me in labor with V, and we accepted their invitation to dinner. The contractions continued through the meal, now at a pace of every ten minutes. I continued to relax and breathe through them.
 
On the drive home, the contractions began to feel more intense and more consistent. I used the lavender essential oil and got in bed. While Dave put V down to sleep (and fell asleep with him), I laid in the Bradley relaxation pose. (And I marveled at how easy and helpful this side-laying pose was in this pregnancy compared to the excruciating pain it caused in my pelvis last time.) I think that I dozed for a few hours. Around midnight I started to think this might be it, but wasn’t sure enough to wake Dave, despite reaching the point where I had to start working to relax. The relaxation pose no longer felt good, but leaning back against the headboard concentrated the contractions in my back. I just couldn’t get comfortable in bed. So, I sat on the exercise ball and watched Netflix. I discovered an adorable show called Jane By Design and watched several episodes. Leaning forward over the bed, while sitting on the ball, was helpful for a long time, as was the occasional hip swirl. After a while, I really wanted to be in the water, so I drew a bath and got in. As in the bed, reclining in the tub caused my back contractions to feel much worse, so I made a towel pillow for my forehead and leaned forward. I didn’t have any sense of the timing of my contractions through any of this. I wasn’t totally convinced that this was really it, so I didn’t bother with timing the contractions. After all, my first birth taught me that the clock really means nothing with an OP baby. It also taught me that even super-intense, consistent contractions don’t guarantee anything.
 

Monday, August 6

Around 2am, I was losing the ability to relax myself through contractions, so I woke up Dave and then got back in the bathtub. We decided to call Peggy just to let her know that we seemed to be on the path to active labor, though we weren’t ready to call it that yet.
 
Eventually, the bath stopped feeling good. Since I had already ruled out the bed as being comfortable, I decided to lay on the couch on my side. The sagginess between the cushions seemed to help. Dave slept on floor beside me. When he was awake for a contraction, he did counter-pressure on my back with hands or peanut massager, which made a huge difference. Contractions were certainly intense, but I was able to stay in relaxation enough to doze off in between the contractions.
 

Around 4:30am, V (19 months) woke up. Dave brought his twin-size mattress into the living room and tried to get him back down to sleep. My vocalizations didn’t help. V was concerned and curious and kept asking about mama, mama, sometimes saying mama…mmmmmm (imitating moan). When Dave would press into my back my back, V wanted to help. Dave had V put his little hands on top of his own. At one point, Dave was in the other room for a contraction, so V came up and started pushing on my back. What a dear little boy. We had decided previously that we wanted V at the birth, but only if it was the best thing for him and my relaxation. We quickly realized that things were getting intense enough that we couldn’t give V the focus he needed, as I needed all of Dave’s attention on me, coaching me through the contractions. So, we called my parents around 5am to come and get him, with the idea that we might have him come to be with us again whenever it seemed right.

 
Dave needed to get V packed up to go, and I felt I couldn’t make it through the contractions on my own on the couch, so I got in the tub again. It was helpful to switch things up again, but relaxation was getting tougher and tougher to maintain. My vocalizing through contractions was getting stronger and I was starting to have intense downward pressure. My dad and stepmom showed up about 5:30 and got V and then Dave and I talked about our next steps. Dave called Peggy with an update, but I didn’t think I was ready to go to the birth center. I was terrified of getting there and being sent home, having to make the drive there twice, getting there and being days away from having a baby. Even with six months of work done in the Mothers Healing Together birth trauma support group and careful selection of providers who focus on mother-empowered care and the emotional side of birth, certain aspects of my first birth were coming back to haunt the corners of my mind.

Peggy asked to speak with me, and while we were talking, I started crying. I still wasn’t even sure that this was the real thing. After all, I’d lost no blood, no mucus plug, and no water. I told her that I couldn’t bear to take a car ride there with the current intensity of the contractions, yet the thought of them being even stronger and making the drive was even worse.

With that burst of fear and emotion, I think Peggy recognized what I could not/would not see—not only was the real deal, but pretty far into the real deal. Peggy reminded us that she needed one hour’s lead time to get a midwife to the center, and we all agree that Mayanne and I would meet there in an hour. A few moments later she called back and said someone would be there in five minutes. I text Heidi (photographer) to let her know, and she decided to come right away (versus waiting until we had a progress check, if elected) to avoid the traffic that would soon build as rush hour heated up.

Dave and I prepared for the drive. Before we left, I went to the bathroom and had the tiniest swipe of bloody show on the toilet paper. I cried a tear of joy, hoping that maybe there was some validity to this labor journey after all.

The car ride started tough, especially two speed bumps in our neighborhood, but once we were on 29, I felt trancelike. I hung onto the handhold above the car door and breathed and relaxed through the contractions, almost swinging. I could do this! Nothing was going to stop me this time. That early in the morning, there was little traffic, and the ride went quickly. I almost floated there.

When we arrived at the birth center, I was thrilled to see that Kim was the midwife there. Everything felt even more right and the fears that had been starting to build in me relaxed out. She was the midwife I connected the most with emotionally through the pregnancy. I might have teared-up because I was so happy. Kim came outside to greet us and she helped me inside. As I started walking, I felt a gush of fluid. I thought it was my water, but the volume wasn’t enough to actually leak, so it might have just been more bloody show. When we got into the Lotus Room, where I had done most of my prenatal appointments, I felt at home.

 

Leaving me in good hands, Dave went to the car to bring in our stuff. Previously, I thought that I would decline all internal exams, but I needed proof that this was real labor so I agreed to one. Kim checked me and said that I was at 7 centimeters/a stretchy 8 and baby was still OP. I was shocked at my progress, and happy, yet still emotionally holding back that this was going to happen. The OP baby was no surprise, as the back labor was a tell-tale sign. Kim told me that the water in the tub was warm and ready, and I was eager to get in. I put on the clothes I had chosen for the birth (a modest top—what I felt comfortable in for pictures), and by the time Dave got back from the car, I was checked, changed, and getting in the tub. He came over and got right to coaching, bring chocolate coconut water with him. Someone posted my visualization posters on the wall by the tub and we put on the Reefscapes DVD I had liked from prenatal visits.

Relaxation Visuals
 
At the tub, Dave told me that our photographer, Heidi Daniels, also had arrived. She was so quiet, and I was so in my zone, that I didn’t even notice her at first. I caught him up on the past few minutes. Dave was surprised that I had done the internal check, but he was supportive. I told him how many centimeters I was, and asked him to ask Kim if I would have the baby today. I couldn’t ask her myself because I knew it was a ridiculous question, yet I was so afraid that maybe the end wouldn’t be in sight and, like with my first birth, the pain would be relentless for days. Kim assured us that baby would likely be coming very soon.
 
Photo by Heidi Daniels
Sure enough, things started picking up intensely. Almost as soon as I got in the water, I lost my mucus plug. The contractions were getting very intense and I tried to stay in relaxation, though it was getting very difficult. I pictured the things from my visualization posters, breathed, and relaxed so much that I was floating in the water, as I didn’t want to use my muscles to push myself down. Kim and Jo helped me remember to keep my vocalizations in a low tone. I focused on two ideas to get me through the waves of pressure: strength and relaxation. To relax, I imagined myself in the Bade Pool at Spa World under the mushroom-style fountain–totally relaxed, surrounded by others, yet alone and distant–inward, focused. I also focused on being strong and enduring like the Caryatids of the Athenian Acropolis.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Things got more and more intense and I started to mentally lose it. I wanted to be out of my body. I wanted to be done. I was ashamed of these feelings, yet I knew that hiding them would take energy, so I just said what I thought. “I can’t. I want to go away. I’m too tired.” I never wanted to leave my baby, but I desperately wanted to pause life, leave the moment, rest, and then come back and do this. Ah, the mental struggle of transition.
 
With Kim, Jo, Dave, and Heidi crouched around the side of the tub, I had a community of supporters helping me stay in the present and get through it. This image of being encircled by love and support at my eye-level around the round tub is a quintessential memory/symbol of this birth: being part of a circle of women empowering each other and trusting that our bodies are strong and wise, brilliantly designed by a loving creator. It is everything about life, community, and God that I want to stick with me.
Photo by Heidi Daniels
 
In this circle of strength, my team gently cheered me on as I felt my strength and sanity waning. Perhaps Kim sensed my exhaustion and frustration, and she suggested that having Dave lift my belly during contractions would help baby’s head put pressure on my cervix to encourage dilation. Dave took her suggestion, and I hated it. It made me angry, and I said so (in a polite, blunt way). I remembered the strategy of getting angry at the pain, so I utilized it. But really, it made me mad and I wanted to stop. Yet, I/we kept going with it. I knew that Kim wouldn’t have suggested it if it wasn’t worthwhile. Sure enough, it worked. I felt an incredible, painful burst of pressure shoot out of me. In my mind, it made a sound like gunshot. I don’t know if it really did. I looked down and honestly expected to see that baby had been birthed in that furor of pressure. Alas, no. That was my water breaking. It was meconium stained.
 
Very quickly after that, the urge to push started. It was intense and unlike anything I’d felt before, so I recognized it by that new feeling. I had been nervous about knowing what to do during pushing, but I just went with it and Kim was supportive of letting me heed my body, which was great since I wanted to avoid coached pushing. But, when Jo used the Doppler to take a heart reading, Kim began to coach my pushing. It was one of those things that could’ve made me so mad, save that this time I had a provider who I could fully trust. If Kim told me I needed to do it, I needed to do it. I didn’t get an explanation right away, but I could see from the way that Kim and Jo were looking at each other that something was up. Kim became more urgent, telling me that my baby needed me and I had to put all of my effort into pushing. I tried, but I could tell that it wasn’t strong enough. It wasn’t baby’s time yet, so my body could only go so far. Kim told me I had to get out of the water NOW or she would have to “make the call” [to 911 for ambulance]. I didn’t hear it as a threat, like what I heard in the hospital with my first birth; it was simply reality from someone who cared deeply for me and my baby. We were all calm, there was no hysteria or panic, it was just a simple next step to help my baby.

While I trusted Kim, the idea of getting out of this deep tub with high sides while pushing out my baby felt simply ridiculous. The fullness I felt made me think baby’s head was already partially out. I told her that I couldn’t do it, and she told me that I had to—my baby was not happy in the water with a heart rate staying at 70. She said that they could all lift me out if needed. Somehow, got my focus together and got myself out of the tub. In that moment, I felt very light and in my mind, I semi-floated out. I made it mostly on to the bed when the next contraction hit and it was time to push again. Baby’s heart rate bounced right up to 140 and everyone was relieved.

The hard work of pushing continued and as I felt burning, I realized that baby’s head actually had not been partially out, like I had felt. Now, baby was really coming. This was hard, tiring work. I reached down and touched baby’s head, but couldn’t make sense of it. It was like touching my own skin when it’s numb—I could feel it with my fingers, but not from the other surface. I found it distracting and uncomfortable to reach. I needed to keep my focus. Dave, trying to motivate me, asked if I would like to know what color hair the baby had. I was so perplexed by this statement. Baby had visible hair? Huh? (Big brother V was born with only light duck fluff.) The thought distracted me, and I needed to keep my focus. As I pushed baby out, Kim told me to reach down and catch my baby. With her hands doing the guiding, I was able to touch, catch, and bring baby up to my abdomen. I could see that baby had lots of dark hair, which was a shock. (Now Dave’s comment made sense to me.) Baby was quiet at first, but then quickly gave a brief cry. After a few moments of marveling, I remembered that we needed to see if baby was a boy or girl. I thought it must be a girl, because Jo had said something about “catch her” a few minutes earlier, but really no one probably had a chance to see the genitalia in that quick swoop out and up. I moved baby up to look and couldn’t tell what I was looking at from that angle—I thought I was looking at a freakishly swollen vulva before Dave said it was a boy and realized that was testicles and then put baby in a more front-facing angle to really see. At some point, I announced, “He has a name. This is [E.J.]”

He was born at 8:07 am, just a mere hour after arriving at the birth center, and after just 30 minutes of pushing.

 
Photo by Heidi Daniels

I kept E on me and snuggled him. I marveled at his beautiful umbilical cord that was draped down my belly. After a few minutes, it was time to push out the placenta. This was not pleasant. I wanted it to feel natural and come out of its own accord, and I was getting lots of coaching on pushing it out. It seemed to take forever. Once the placenta was out, it was time to cut E’s cord. We gave Dave one final offer of doing it and then I did it. This was a true highlight for me—it represented everything that a non-medicalized birth is: I am the one who brought my baby out of me and I am the one who separated him from his life-giving placenta.

We spent time cuddling, trying to nurse (not too successfully, E like to sucked in his lower lip, which was great for giving him comfort but would break the latch), I got to see the placenta and how the amniotic sac had covered him. As the hours went by, I got to rest, drink, eat (laborade cubes and my stepmom’s white chicken chili). Mayanne came in and congratulated us. Birth Assistants Kaycee (who arrived at some point right before delivery) and Jo took my vitals sporadically. It was amazing to have this community of women around me, genuinely celebrating with me. I was on an incredible high. Birth, in all of its rich-yet-simple beauty was triumphant!

Photo by Heidi Daniels
 
My dad, stepmom, and 12-year-old niece who was visiting from Texas (and flying home just hours later), brought V. Heidi took pictures. When V came in, he said “baby” and was interested and was happy to be in the bed with us and touch his brother’s head. When E cried, V started crying as well.
 
Photo by Heidi Daniels

Over the hours of resting, we recounted the birth. As we talked, Kim shared that baby had actually come out face down (i.e., occiput anterior, OA) , not OP as he’d been when we’d arrived, and he was born with a nuchal hand (a hand by his face). We rested and waited for Peggy to do the newborn exam and my sutures. When we got around to the newborn exam, E weighed in at 7lbs 2oz and 20.75 inches long. Peggy guessed that E was flipping from OP to OA when his heart rate had dropped. It made perfect sense. My body and my baby were doing just what they should. Technology gave us a window into that moment, but it was a window of frosted glass, unclear.

 
Photo by Heidi Daniels
Photo by Heidi Daniels

 

 
After the action slowed down, Dave, E, and I stayed in bed and rested (and watched the Reefscapes DVD over and over again). Dave fell asleep. I was tired but wired. E was shaky and his blood sugar was low, so I focused hard on trying to get some colostrum in him and get him past sucking in that lower lip and unlatching. After about 8 hours, we were ready to go home, so I took a shower and Dave packed us up. We were home at about 5 PM. I wrapped E, nursed him in the wrap, and finally snoozed.
 
 
Click on the photo below to see the birth day story told in pictures via Vimeo video:
Photo by Heidi Daniels

Photo  Montage by Heidi Daniels


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