Monday, March 16, 2015

My wife (Sarah) had a very quick labor. We got to the hospital at 5:30am and the baby was born at 10:30am. 

My wife was pregnant.  She wanted a doula. At the time I was in the mindset of whatever the pregnant lady wants, happens.  I was a little nervous about the price, because I knew it was going to be a bunch of money, and we were getting ready to have a baby and pay for childcare, diapers, burp cloths, etc.  I was also a little nervous that having a doula in the mix would somehow make my role less valuable, I started thinking the birth would be about Sarah (my wife) and Tara (our doula).  I was totally wrong.

Tara was great, and the money was totally worth it.  Included in the service are multiple prenatals. It was really helpful to sit-down with Tara (in our home). She came to us (via bike) and sat on our couch and drank tea and answered questions. Her presence was calming. We were taking a childbirth class and reading all the books and talking to my Mom daily, but it was so valuable to get to talk to Tara and ask a bunch of questions.  She is very easy to talk to, a great listener, and easily put us at ease.

At then, when my wife started experiencing labor pains as we were nearing our due date, it was wicked helpful to get to call Tara. She was always available. We could call/text/email. It felt like we were her only client. I would work with her again in a heartbeat.

The day the baby decided to arrive, we already felt like we knew Tara well. She was such a calming presence. It was helpful to call her when my wife was laboring at home.  She was in it with us, but also gave us space to be in it by ourselves.  When Tara showed up at the hospital it felt great. First off, she's experienced, so she knew the midwife who was going to deliver our baby. All of this just increased our confidence.  She not only made my wife as comfortable as possible, she also helped me relax and was constantly checking in to make sure that I was okay.  Sarah's vision was to do natural childbirth, which ended up happening, and Tara was invaluable. I remember her saying throughout the process:  YOU ARE STRONG, YOU'RE DOING GREAT.

When it came time for the final pushing and everyone in the room looked at each other because they all knew the sounds meant that now was the time, Tara took a second to do a final check in with me to make sure I was happy with how it was all about to happen.  She made sure someone took photos, which we had wanted, but forgot to think about.

After the baby arrived, there was some minor complications with her breathing and Tara was a rockstar once again, just making sure that we knew that all of this was normal and that it was no big deal. She followed up with texts and calls during our hospital stay.  When we brought the baby home, Tara did one last visit to say hello, debrief, and answer questions.  She read us a story of the birth. It was totally awesome to walk through. Tara had taken notes through the entire labor.

It's now 704 days since our baby was born. My wife and I have been having a blast hanging out with our cute chubby toddler (who just started saying NO BIGGIE).  For a while now, I've been meaning to write something that Tara can share with prospective clients, but you know, we've been busy.  But I am truly grateful for everything Tara did for us.  If you are looking for a Doula, Tara is excellent. She's experienced, accessible, and confident. She made the pushing part easy (I can say that because I wasn't in labor).  If we have a second baby, we will for sure have Tara as our Doula.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Here is a sweet home birth story from last summer...enjoy!

Here is a sweet home birth story from last summer...enjoy!

Dear baby,

The week before you were born, we had 3 guesses on your due date based on different sources – July 14 (Sunday), July 16 (Tuesday), and July 18 (Thursday). We had told everyone that you were due July 20 so that people wouldn't bug us too early. We expected that you'd be late because our midwives kept reminding us that 8 days late was average for first time moms with low risk pregnancies. But even so, it was hard not to get antsy to meet you as the week came and went. We knew that the full moon was coming on Monday, July 22 (a super moon!) and that there was a storm system coming through over the weekend that was supposed to break the heat wave, so we had a feeling we might meet you during the weekend. 

On Thursday after work, we went out for a movie date, guessing that it might be a while before we got back to a movie theater. During the movie, I was fidgety because it felt like you were moving around a lot, especially down low, and it was uncomfortable to be sitting for so long. It was 97 degrees that day and still daylight when the movie got out, so we drove over to Walden Pond for a swim.The water was really warm from all of the heat we had lately, and like usual, swimming felt really good on my big pregnant body. We swam to the sand bar and back and then stopped for a pizza on the way back home. 

All day at work on Friday, I felt achy in my back and needed to move around a lot. I just thought it was from having sat too much the day before, but looking back now, I bet it was everything getting ready for your big performance. It was too hot to walk outside, but I stretched and walked at our gym at work and cleaned up some work tasks in case I didn't come back the next week (I really hoped I didn't!). When your dad and I both got home that evening, we camped out in our only air-conditioned room and ate dinner and watched a weird movie called The Science of Sleep. 

On Saturday, July 20, we went to brunch with my parents in the morning. It was still hot – probably around 95 degrees – and the electricity went out while we were waiting for our crepes.  So instead, we went to another restaurant, where the staff kept telling us not to have our baby during brunch! We had plans to go into Boston for the Outside the Box performing arts festival in the afternoon, so after brunch, I took a nap to rest up while your dad worked on some photographs. About ½ way through my nap, at around 3 pm, I started feeling a little strange – like I was having cramps that were out of the ordinary. This had happened about 3 week ago and then stopped, so I was skeptical that it was anything to think about at first. But by the time I got out of bed, they were unusual enough that your dad and I talked about waiting to go into the festival. I called Catherine to ask her advice, and she said that it sounded like I might be in early labor, but that it would probably last a while, so we should go into Boston if we felt like it. We decided to skip the first performance but to still go in for the later one, which would have meant leaving the house at about 5:30. I took a walk down the street and chatted with a neighbor to see if walking would change anything. But by the time 5:30 came around, I was pretty sure that I was having real contractions, and when I timed them, they were only about 4.5 minutes apart. We decided that going to Boston wasn't such a great idea. 

I called Catherine again, and she said that it sounded like labor really was starting, and that I should do something fun but low-key to distract myself in this early stage.  At about 7  pm, we decided to pack up dinner and go have a picnic at a nearby lake. Your dad hopped in the water and swam for a while while I sat on the dock with my feet in. The water felt warm and relaxing, and it was a very lush, green, warm summer evening.  Pretty soon, though, the contractions were strong enough that I couldn't just sit through them – I needed to walk and concentrate when they came.  I was pacing up and down the dock, and your dad thought that the sight of a very pregnant woman pacing around with a strong look of concentration was making all of the mothers on the beach nervous. By the time he was finished swimming, I didn't think I could stay there to eat, so we packed up and walked back to the car. I called Catherine on the way, at about 8 pm, to tell her that it was getting more intense, but she still thought it was early in the process. 

When we got home, I tried timing my contractions again, and now they were about 2.5 - 3 minutes apart and lasting over a minute. I tried to eat dinner while we watched an episode of Downton Abbey, but by the end of the episode, the contractions were so strong that I couldn't focus on the show at all. Pretty soon, I threw up all that good dinner, so I called Catherine again, and she said she would start on her way to our house and also tell Audra and Tara to get ready. My labor was moving along pretty quickly! I needed your dad's help to get through the contractions now, which was a challenge for him because he had a lot to get ready but only little bits of time to do it in. He filled the birth tub, got ice packs ready, made a mango lassi in case I wanted to eat again, and brought our boxes of supplies to the room we were laboring in (the downstairs guest room). I took a shower to get more comfortable, and your dad put ice packs on my back and massaged my head, which both felt really good. I tried using a yoga ball to lean on and also tried the tub, but it felt too strong in the tub at that point, so I didn't stay in for long. Sometime around 9:30, Catherine arrived and checked your heart rate and said you were doing just fine. 

I didn't have much of a sense of time at this point, but looking back on it, I think I was in transition as we moved back to the birth tub. I propped up on the side and your dad held my hands and I squeezed them really hard through each contraction. Pretty soon, I started to feel like I wanted to push in the middle of each contraction. I think Tara arrived around this time, and I was really happy to see her. A little later, Audra arrived too, so our whole team was there. They assured me that you were already moving down my birth canal, and that you were on your way into the world with a strong heartbeat. Your dad kept holding my hands and getting me coconut water to drink. It was warm in the tub, so he also brought ice and cold washcloths to drape over my head. Pretty soon I really started pushing, and I surprised myself with how loud I was getting! One of the midwives told me to try to see if I could touch your head a few inches inside, and I did, but I wasn't sure if that soft, fuzzy thing I was feeling was actually your head or not – I was afraid that it wasn't and you were still way up high, but thinking back now, I am pretty sure it was the first time I touched you.

Everyone helped me move from my knees to a seated position so that I could rest my arms. I was pushing really hard with each contraction now – it was such a strange sensation, less like I was pushing and more like my body was just doing it and I was along for the ride. I knew not to try forcing a push, so I just let myself follow the work that my body was doing. 

The pushing seemed to go on for a very long time (I think it actually was about 2 hours). At some point, I could tell that you were getting very close to coming out into the world. You took two steps forward and one step back with every contraction, which was exciting but also discouraging when I would feel your head slip backwards as I was resting between contractions. Audra, Tara, Catherine, and your dad kept reminding me that this was really good, because it meant there was a lot of good stretching going on that would help to prevent a tear. It seemed like forever as your crept your way forward, bit by bit, until finally I could reach down and feel the top of your head just beginning to poke out – it felt so soft and fuzzy because you had a lot of hair, but it surprised me! Your dad could see your little head pushing out, too. You hung out there for a while, your head coming out just a little more with each push, until finally your head was out in the world! The few minutes when your head was out but your body was in were very strange to me – one of the strangest things I have ever felt. My body wanted to take a short break before it pushed the rest of you out, and I was worried that you couldn't breathe because your head was out but under water. Everyone told me that you were OK and that you were getting oxygen though the placenta. Before I knew it, my body wanted to push again, and this time, the rest of you came squirming out as well – another one of the strangest things I've ever felt! Your little hands and arms and knees and feet felt like little fish swimming out of me. So quickly, you were out – after so long carrying you inside of me, I couldn't believe it! 

Catherine quickly put you up on my chest and helped me scoot down so that I could hold you mostly in the water. your dad draped warm wash clothes over your head so that you stayed warm. I think you were crying good and loud as you came to my chest for the first time, but I don't know when you quieted down. It is all a bit of a blur – I just remember being totally amazed that here you were, all cuddled up on me, and the birth was over, and we were all OK. You were all scrunched up and so tiny! Your dad was still helping to support my head behind me, and he reached down to touch you for the first time. We spent a few minutes in awe looking at you and catching our breath before we even thought to see if you were a boy or a girl. When I looked, I was so surprised that you were a girl that I wasn't even sure I was right at first! 

We rested in the tub for about 20 minutes. Your dad fed me some pieces of watermelon and the last of the coconut water in between all of the gazing at you we were doing. Your heartbeat was good and your apgar scores were high, so we knew you were OK. We were so happy that you were strong and healthy. I couldn't believe how beautiful and tiny and amazing you were. I hadn't delivered your placenta yet, so everyone helped me slowly and gently get up and out of the tub and onto the bed in our guest room, where the labor had started just around 11 hours ago. On my chest, you cried and rooted around, trying to find your way to some food. Pretty soon, I delivered the placenta – it was so easy after everything else, just a few pushes and it slid right out. You kept trying to get to some food but seemed to be getting frustrated, so we helped you in the right direction, and soon you got to take your first little sip of colostrum. I hardly remember what that first feeding was like, but I am sure you were very happy about it. 

In the next few hours, it felt like we were having a middle-of-the-night party to celebrate your arrival. I felt so close to everyone – you and your dad of course, but also Tara and Audra and Catherine. They all started to get some food ready and to clean up.  Your dad made mango lassis for everyone – what a great celebratory drink! Audra gave us a “tour” of the placenta, which was fascinating. Luckily, it looked in tact, so we didn't have to worry about any being left behind. At some point, you fell asleep on my chest, all bright red and warm and cozy. Tara helped your dad to cut the cord about an hour after the birth, which gave it plenty of time to transfer all the good blood from the placenta to you. While you were snuggled on my chest, Tara fed me a breakfast of eggs and kale that your dad had cooked up – yum! When we had had a few hours of cuddle time and everything was cleaned up and everyone had eaten some food, the midwives checked you out to make sure you were OK – they weighed and measured you, tested out your movements, and told us that you looked great.  They also thought that my uterus was shrinking down just fine. I just couldn't believe how perfectly everything was turning out for our little family. Your dad got to hold you for the first time as Catherine helped me clean myself up and showed me how to care for myself in the next few days as my body recovered. 

At around 5:30, the midwives gave us all hugs and helped us get settled into bed so that they could take off and leave us to get some sleep. I remember hearing all of the birds starting to sing just around the time that they were leaving. You slept between your dad and I on the bed for about 5 hours. I had a hard time sleeping because I was so excited that you were there with us and also a little nervous that you were OK. I didn't know much about you yet, so it was hard to know what was normal! But really, you were just fine, all warm and cozy and peaceful sleeping between your two parents for the first time. 

Now it is 1 week later, and I can't believe we have had such a beautiful week. I have only been falling more and more in love with you every day. I had no idea how powerful this feeling would be – I remember my brother telling me that I would love you so much it would hurt, and now I know what he meant. A lot of birth stories that I read described the instant when the baby was put on mama's chest as the strongest moment of love. For me, I think that my love only got stronger and stronger in the next day or two, as the awed feeling of having just given birth faded away and the sheer amazement at how incredible you were and how much I loved you grew in its place.

It took your dad and I a while to decide that we were ready to bring a new life into ours, because we love each other very much and really loved all of things we got to do together as a pair. But we knew that some day we'd be ready to set out on the adventure of having a little baby of our own and getting to explore the world as a family. I am glad that we waited for the right time, because it means we got you – sweet, strong, perfect little Baby Girl. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

I can't believe that I haven't posted anything on this blog for 3.5 years....yikes:)  Well in that time I had a daughter and many more births as a midwife and doula and now we have a story posted in the Boston Globe!  Enjoy reading.....

Monday, October 31, 2011

Welcome Sweet Palesa! Born at home on 10.26.11

   A beautiful, sweet letter written by her mom....enjoy:)                          

Dear Palesa,
As I start writing you this letter, you are 2 days old.  You are lying asleep next to me as I write down your birth story.  I can’t wait to share this with you some day.
I went into labor with you on Sunday, October 23rd.  Your “guess date” was the Tuesday before, October 18th, but I thought you would be a little bit later than that.  Besides, I loved being pregnant with you so much that I wasn’t quite ready to have you on Tuesday anyway- I wanted a few more days to enjoy our pregnancy!  

On Friday that week, I took a long walk in the Arnold Arboretum in the morning, and then around Jamaica Pond that evening.  I was having “warm up” contractions throughout the week.  At least I thought they were contractions, but I couldn’t really tell for sure- they could have just been you moving inside me.  On Saturday your daddy and I took a long walk in the Arnold Arboretum, and then walked into town to take care of some errands.  We ate Thai food for lunch, and I asked them to make the Pad Thai extra spicy, hoping that it might start labor soon.  The waitresses all thought you would be a boy.  That evening, we walked around Jamaica Pond again, and got to see the Lantern Festival.  Afterwards, your daddy and I had a piece of apple cheesecake that we made a few days earlier.  When I went to bed Saturday night, I was visualizing my uterus contracting, my cervix opening, you preparing to be born, and labor starting.

That night I had lots of cramping contractions while I was sleeping.  They became part of my dreams, and I could still sleep pretty well despite the contractions.  They felt like bad menstrual cramps, and very different than the painless contractions I’d been experiencing all week, where my belly would get hard like a rock.  I woke up at about 5:00 am and went downstairs and wrote you a long letter.  Someday you will read that letter too (but that one is by hand, not email).  Afterwards, I went back upstairs and snuggled in bed with your daddy, knowing that labor was starting soon and that this would be the last morning just the two of us would be able to cuddle in bed.  I used my phone to time contractions as best as I could, and they were all over the place and very irregular, which is typical of “pre-labor.”  We got out of bed around 7:30 or so and ate breakfast- I had a piece of toast with butter and fig jam.  Then, around 9:00 am I curled up on the couch and took a long nap.  Your daddy gently woke me up with kisses on my arm at around 10:45.  We were tentatively planning on hosting Church at our house Sunday night, and Jen had called to ask about our plans for the evening and how things were going.  But before we could even call her back to tell her that we’d still like people to come over but that labor was quickly approaching, I had to call your Auntie Suz.  I had promised her that she would be the first person we would call when we went into labor.  So I called her to tell her that mild contractions had started, and though I didn’t think I was in real labor yet, we were getting close.  Your Auntie Suz was so excited for your birth, and exclaimed, “Congratulations!”  She reminded me that the next day, October 24th was the day she guessed you would be born.  It was a very special day for her too- eight years ago she and Uncle Bryan went on their first date together, and the 24th was also the state competition for the Windsor High School marching band, where your Auntie Suz was a director.  I told her I thought it was very likely you would be born the next day and she would have guessed right!

Then we got dressed to go to Jamaica Pond.  Sunday was a crisp and beautiful fall day and the pond was beautiful.  Your daddy went running, and I did some walking and jogging.  I kept my phone in my pocket to time contractions, and when I was running, they would come as close as every 3 minutes.  So I knew that the motion of running was helping start contractions.  Plus, I really enjoyed getting to run one last time before giving birth to you!  I tied my jacket around my waist and ran in a t-shirt, and got a lot of funny and amazed looks from the other people around the pond staring at a very-pregnant woman running!

After the run, I showered, put in a load of laundry, ate lunch, and called Audra, one of our midwives to let her know that I was getting pretty irregular contractions- anywhere from 8-12 minutes apart, with cramping that felt like menstrual cramps, and that overall this felt very different than the day before.  We agreed to check in if anything changed, if I felt like I needed anything, or before going to bed.

Somewhere between 1 and 3 p.m., I realized that I was somewhere edging on the line between “pre-labor” and “early labor,” which basically means that my contractions were starting to fall into a pattern and they were starting to soften and open my cervix. We called a few more people to let them know that the birthing process had begun, and sent an email to some friends and family that had been praying for us and offered great encouragement.  Everyone was so excited, and we were too.

At 5:30 or so, Jen and Aaron came over for church.  Both of them had gotten to see you grow inside me for the past 9 months, and each were extremely excited to spend the evening with us- neither of them had ever seen a laboring mother before!  I went to the bathroom around 6:30 and noticed my mucous plug when I wiped.  It came out in a giant chunk about the size of my thumb.  Normally I would have called your daddy to come look at it (it was actually very cool to see), but since we had company over, I couldn’t do that.  I did whisper in his ear that I’d lost my mucous plug, and I think he was a little bit disappointed that he didn’t get to see it.  At this point in the evening, I was having fairly regular contractions, about every 7-8 minutes, and though they were definitely getting stronger, I could easily manage them and talk through them.  I was definitely pretty distracted though- I walked around a lot as we prayed together, and didn’t really want to stay seated as we ate pizza for dinner.  I skipped having a piece of cheesecake even!  During our prayer time, I remember your daddy standing behind me and rubbing my shoulders during a contraction, or encouraging me to lean on him as he comforted me.

After Jen and Aaron left, your daddy and I went downstairs and called a few people.  We got to do a video chat with Grandma D and Grandpa Abe, who were both so excited to meet their first grandchild.  I talked with Audra again, and we made a new plan.  She encouraged me to try to get as much rest as possible, and I would call her when contractions were about 5 minutes apart, or I felt like I needed her there.  She said she thought it was likely that she would hear from us in the middle of the night.  Contractions were pretty regular at about 7 minutes apart, and although I could still talk through them, I definitely had to pay more attention to them and make an effort to breathe and relax!  I remember being on the phone with Cyndi, who asked if I was having a contraction and asked me to talk through it.  I think I said something silly about what I’d had for lunch that day!

About 10:30 or so, your daddy and I went to try to go to bed.  We decided to have a small glass of wine to help me relax and hopefully fall asleep.  Cyndi also encouraged me to have a good snack of complex carbohydrates, so I had a warm whole wheat tortilla with honey and a few stoned-wheat crackers.  We sat on the couch and sipped our wine and cuddled, as your daddy gently stroked my belly.  I remember how special the moment was that we got to share- it was a final memory your daddy and I got to make together before we welcomed you into our arms (though you had a very special place in our lives since the day we found out that I was pregnant with you!). 

We turned out the lights at about 11:30, and after 3 contractions, I realized that I definitely was not going to be sleeping, and that I needed to get up and move through the contractions, just before midnight.  I got dressed in cozy sweatpants and slippers and walked to the living room so that your daddy could sleep as much as possible.  I rocked and swayed during contractions, and sometimes leaned over the dining room table, or or leaned forward on my knees on a medicine ball.  Between contractions, I put down my head and closed my eyes. 

At 1:00 am or so, I drew water in the bathtub to try to soak and relax.  I had little LED light candles in the bathroom and the lights off, and just enjoyed the quiet time as I thought about how excited I was to meet you.  Grandma Nancy had mentioned when we talked on Sunday that she thought you would arrive sometime after the sun came up the next day.  I began to realize that there was no turning back- in just a few more hours, this pregnancy would be over, and we’d have a new baby!
I got out of the tub around 1:45 and went back to bed, still timing contractions.  Though they weren’t extremely uncomfortable or painful, they were usually around 5 minutes apart, but sometimes 2-3 minutes and sometimes 6-7 minutes.  Still, I woke up your daddy and told him that I thought I needed a little more help, and maybe we should call the midwives.  We called Audra somewhere around 2:30 or 3:00 am, and talked for a good while.  Because I was laying on the bed and looking at the bright screen on my phone, my peripheral vision became a bit splotchy, almost like I had a migraine headache.  I remember us being on the phone with her for what seemed like a long time- at this point I was moaning softly through the more intense contractions, and some of them were coming fairly close together, maybe 2 minutes apart.  When I couldn’t talk, I’d put down the phone and she would listen, or your daddy would talk to her. 

Audra came over shortly after this.  We sat in the living room and she took some of my vitals.  She listened to your heartbeat, which was strong and excellent, and took my blood pressure, pulse, and temperature.  Your daddy made both of us peppermint tea.  We spent the next hour and a half or so talking and telling stories.  Audra sat on our couch and could see a picture displayed of the day your daddy and I got married, and from that we began telling stories about our wedding and the other weddings of some dear friends we had attended this summer.  Technically, you went to these weddings too!  I could no longer tell a story during a contraction, so I would pause wherever I was in a story, breathe through a contraction, and then pick up again after it had subsided.  I felt cheerful and excited, and encouraged your daddy and Audra to keep talking during contractions (which Audra was timing).  Even though I couldn’t talk through them, I definitely enjoyed listening.  I think I was sitting on the blue medicine ball and swaying and moving gently during contractions, but I don’t think I had to use a lot of breathing or comfort techniques, or really move into different positions to work through the contraction- I think I just swayed gently, possibly moaned softly, and breathed through them.  I remember commenting how nice and unusual it was to be sitting in our living room telling stories at 4 in the morning!  Before we’d gone into the living room when Audra arrived, we put classical music playlist on the ipod in the kitchen, and I remember hearing one of my favorite pieces, Mahlers’ second symphony, and my favorite place where the music crescendos into a wonderful trumpet trill.
There was part of me that still couldn’t believe that I was in labor and close to birthing a baby.  I am also an aspiring midwife and a doula and a childbirth educator, so I know a great deal about the labor process intellectually, but I have never experienced it.  Also, I didn’t want to get too excited, because I still had a lot of work ahead of me.  I remember asking Audra if she thought that I was actually in labor.  She laughed a little and affirmed that yes, I was actually in labor.  I didn’t even realize at this point that I’d already been in active labor (versus warm-up labor or early labor) for a few hours by this time.

After this, the time all became a little bit fuzzy to me.  Audra could see that the contractions were getting more intense and closer together, and suggested that I take another bath and just soak in the tub for a little while.  This was somewhere around 5:00 am, but it did take a while to fill the tub. Our bathroom had an old and very deep jacuzzi tub with jets.  Your daddy filled the tub with water so deep that only the tip of my belly reached over the surface of the water.  He also placed the LED candle lights around the tub, and turned on the jets.  When I got into the tub, my contractions seemed so much easier at first.  Your daddy sat next to me and held my hand, and helped me breathe and stay loose.  I usually moaned in deep, low tones through the contraction.  Audra stayed close by and would come in periodically to listen to your heartbeat (always strong, just like you!), but she also recognized the specialness of the time between your daddy and I, and gave us some nice privacy to share this experience together. 

As I stayed in the tub, the contractions got stronger and stronger, and soon I had to twist or turn my body through a contraction.  My moaning and toning got louder and lower as the intensity increased, and Audra encouraged me that I was doing a great job staying so relaxed and moving with the contractions, which were opening my cervix and bringing down my baby.  Soon, Catherine, the apprentice midwife arrived.  I remember seeing her in the doorway of the bathroom, and I must have been between contractions because I cheerfully smiled and said hello.  It was as if I were saying hello to an old friend at a coffee shop, not like I was in the process of birthing a baby, naked in a tub! 
At some point (we can’t remember if it was before or after I got out of the tub though), your daddy made a joke and asked if I wanted to listen to Bob Oates, the NPR morning show we usually listened to in the mornings when our alarm clock went off.  To me it was still in the middle of the night, and it seemed absurd that listening to Bob Oates was even a possibility, but your daddy reminded me it was after 6:00 am on a Monday morning. 

The contractions in the tub continued to get stronger and stronger, and some of them were so close together that it felt like a continuous contraction.  Your daddy, Audra, and Catherine each reminded me how hard I was working, and most of the time I agreed that although this was very hard, I could do it.  I thought of all the emails and messages I’d received over the past day, and began crying a little, very moved and touched as I remembered how many of our friends and family around us were thinking of us and praying for us right then, and sending so much love and support and encouragement.  I definitely felt the presence of people around us, though no one was in the bathroom with me at that time except for your daddy.

However, soon, it occurred to me that laboring was actually really hard and painful, and I didn’t want to be in labor anymore.  I asked everyone to make labor stop, because I didn’t want to do this anymore, and I was just finished.  Audra and Catherine encouraged me that I could definitely do this, that my body was doing exactly what it was supposed to be doing, and that we were getting closer and closer.  I tried to stay encouraged, that each contraction was one contraction closer to getting to finally meet you.  It was hard work, and I was making lots of deep and low noises, and sometimes the volume of my voice surprised me.  I wondered if our neighbors upstairs were surprised at the noises of a birthing woman below them!

I had awful heartburn during much of labor, and started to feel a little funny.  Catherine brought in a bowl, and your daddy held it nearby.  At the end of one particularly intense contraction, I vomited violently.  All over the wall, the tub, and in the bowl.  The nice thing was that I also peed at the same time, which felt good.  Normally, when I would sit down on the toilet to pee, I’d have a contraction, so it felt really good to pee without having a contraction!  After vomiting, the midwives used the shower hose to clean me off and I got out of the tub feeling very good.  In fact, I sat on the toilet to try to pee some more, and your daddy took a picture of me with a big towel draped across my body and a wide and relaxed smile.  A few minutes before this,  a smile would have been almost impossible, let alone a wild grin! 

I also remembered Audra helping me out of the tub and asking her to get me a hairbrush.  I told her I didn’t want to give birth without brushing my hair.  I pulled it back into a high ponytail.
I assumed that during my time in my tub I’d gone through transition, which meant that pretty soon I would be feeling ready to push.  It is very normal for labor to slow down just after transition and before pushing.  It is called the “rest and be thankful” phase- so I was eager to take advantage of the chance to rest.  I moved back to the bedroom to get more comfortable.  Contractions were mild and seemed to be spaced further apart.  I didn’t want to lay down right away, and I remember enjoying that labor suddenly got much easier.  I was in good spirits and comfortable.  For a while, I stood in front of the bed and leaned forward if I had a contraction. Tara, our other midwife arrived, and I waved and said hello to her from the bed, as if standing naked when company comes over was the most normal and natural thing in the world.  I remember laying down and resting, or moving gently on my feet, and greatly appreciating that labor no longer felt as intense as it felt in the tub.  It must have been around 7:00 or 7:30 by then, because I asked your daddy to call Auntie Suz.  I knew she would be on her way to to the State Marching Band competition, but that she would be awake.  I talked to her for a few minutes too, and told her that soon i expected to be pushing.  She was so excited.

I remember while I was lying on the bed watching Catherine set up some birth supplies in our bedroom.  She plugged in a heating pad and very neatly and with a clear pattern folded our receiving blankets around the heating pad so that when you were born you would be immediately dried and warmed with toasty blankets.  I enjoyed watching her do this, and it reminded me that as part of their jobs, they were preparing to care for a newborn baby.

I can’t remember when, but sometime after the sun came up your daddy made a big pot of oatmeal that everyone enjoyed (I had some the day after you were born!).  Later that morning too, he also made some vegetable and turkey soup.  I had a bowl after you were born, and like everything your daddy cooks, it was delicious.  I don’t ever remember him being away from me long enough to make oatmeal or soup, but somehow he managed to be two places at once, because he hardly left my side, continually talking to me, touching me, and encouraging me. 

Your daddy reminded me of the importance of resting, especially because I hadn’t slept at all since my nap Sunday morning.  I laid across the bed and your daddy laid next to me, facing me.  We held each other’s arms, and I shut my eyes and slept between contractions.  He slept too- both of us were very tired.  We listened to a playlist of songs we had made for our wedding, and it made me happy to listen to them.  Some of the contractions were so mild that I didn’t even have to really move at all- my eyes stayed shut and I softly moaned through them and then fell back asleep.  But most of them were a bit stronger, and I’d roll over to my hands and knees, rock and sway and moan through the contraction, and then lay back down again.  Catherine or Tara came over and put pillows beneath our heads.
Somewhere about 8:15, I got out of bed and went into the kitchen to visit with Tara and Catherine.  They had been listening to my contractions (from my voice) and Tara mentioned something about wanting to time them and get a sense of what was going on.  Labor had slowed down during the rest phase, and it seemed that just when she mentioned to me their awareness of how close and strong the contractions were, they did seem to pick up.  I remember asking them if they thought it was likely that my baby would be born that day.  I still didn’t want to get my hopes up that I would be meeting you soon.  I wondered if it was possible to have labored this far, but still have another day like this to go before the baby arrived.  They both encouraged me that we all expected that I would meet my baby that same day.  I was actually surprised that I felt no urge to push at all, but contractions kind of similar to what I’d felt hours earlier while sitting in the living room talking with Audra and your daddy in the middle of the night.  Tara suggested that if I wanted, we could do an internal exam and see where things were and how things were progressing.

After another 15 minutes, I woke up your daddy, still asleep at the foot of the bed and was ready for an internal exam.  This was my first internal exam all pregnancy, and just like Tara had warned me, the exam triggered two very strong contractions, one on top of the other.  She was graceful and eloquent in telling me that I had been making great progress, and that there was still a little bit more work that my body was doing before I would be ready to give birth.  She said that she still felt a hard ridge of cervix (the rest of it had soften and almost melted away), but that my cervix was opening up very nicely and that I was doing a really great job working with my body as my cervix continued to open and the baby moved down.

I don’t really remember too much of the next 3 hours, except that I labored on the bed, and sure enough, things were getting intense again.  I spent a lot of time on my hands and knees, and sometimes standing and rocking or swaying.  At one point between contractions I thought it would be a good idea to call your Grandma Nancy, right around 9:30.  I think I said hello to her, and then an intense contraction started and I gave your daddy the telephone.  I continued to have bad heartburn.  The midwives all offered me drinks with straws- a mason jar of coconut water, and another of water.  Your daddy brought me a few frozen grapes, and they were absolutely delicious. 

As I found myself back in intense labor again, I continued to moan and make deep, low sounds.  Sometimes my voice was very loud, like an actor on a stage projecting their voice in front of an audience.  I wasn’t yelling, but using the sounds to stay relaxed and open. Tara sometimes chanted with me, “Oooooooooooo-pen” or “loooooooow” and that helped me relax my jaw and stay loose, and visualize my cervix opening and my baby moving down.  My voice matched the intensity of the contraction, and your daddy was next to me with his hands on me, helping me stay loose.  At the end of a contraction, and for less intense contractions, I would buzz my lips together to help me keep my jaw loose.  Tara told me her little daughter Melina, who is about 3 months older than you) would absolutely love me.  Once during labor, maybe after Tara said this, I lifted up your daddy’s shirt and blew a raspberry on his belly.

For one moment I was really hot and overheated, and then I had chills and would shake with cold. Your daddy had a hollow rolling pin full of ice and a warm rice sock that he alternated putting on my back.  They felt so good.  Catherine also placed washcloths soaked in ice water on my neck and forehead.  Your daddy also tried to comfort me with other techniques, like the rebozo. He lifted some weight off my belly, but I remember having to concentrate so intently on each contraction that I couldn’t even pay attention anything but just breathing and rocking through each contraction.
Eventually, Audra encouraged me to try taking another bath, as it had seemed to really relax me before.  At first I wasn’t interested at all.  First, I grew up in Colorado, where we have to be very aware of water usage.  I had already taken two deep baths, and a third seemed excessive and extravagant!  Who was I to waste water?  Also, part of me was a little afraid that if I got into the tub again, the same pattern would be repeated- labor would get easier at first, but then I’d go through transition again and then labor would stop.  I remember telling Audra that I didn’t want to get into the tub because I didn’t want to go through Transition again!  Plus, I’d vomited two or three more times into a bowl while on the bed, which encouraged me that things were probably moving along and I must be pretty close anyway.  I was also starting to feel a lot of pressure on my pelvic floor, in addition to the intense cramping of the contractions.  Your daddy was encouraging me to try some of our breathing techniques, but all I could do was was make the moaning sounds. 

After I initially declined going in the tub again, your daddy repeated Audra’s encouragement, and I finally agreed that getting back into the tub would be a good idea, and they drew the water for me, but this time much cooler than before.  I remember it taking me a long time to move into the tub- it always seemed like just one more contraction before I was comfortable enough to be able to move.  They were so close together at this point that often I would feel a new contraction beginning before the prior one had fully disappeared.

Slowly, I moved back into the tub.  At first, contractions became much easier, just like the first time.  Your daddy sat next to me, and we prayed together.  He would constantly ask me, “Have I told you how proud I am of you?”  I sunk down deep in the water, taking as much pressure off my body as I could, and relaxed and breathed as he held my hands.  He told me I looked incredibly beautiful I looked in that moment, and took a few pictures. It must have been somewhere around 11:30 when I got into the tub again, because I asked your daddy to go downstairs and send a quick email to our friends and family and let them know we were still laboring.  Thank goodness for time stamps on email and cell-phone call-logs!

This time in the tub, the contractions felt very different than earlier.  When a contraction started, it wasn’t so much a cramping sensation anymore as it was intense downward pressure in the front and back.  Catherine dripped cool washcloths over my chest and neck, and poured water over my belly as I moaned and rocked in the water through each contraction.  I was so focused and intense that I often was unaware if anyone was even in the room with me.  Between contractions I closed my eyes and leaned back my head.  I remember your daddy asking if I had any focal points during my contractions, and he tried to encourage me to use some sort of focal point, and to find a sense of grounding which I could labor and breathe around.  I told him that my voice and the sounds I my body were making were my focal point.  With each contraction and between contractions, I was in my own place, at the same time both aware of my surroundings and apart from everything going on around me.

For a moment, I even wondered if I was rude, ignoring everybody else in the room who were all there to support me, because my eyes often remained closed.  I remember just being so grateful to Tara, Audra, and Catherine, and so in love with your daddy.  Every time they brought the straw to my lips so I could sip water from the mason jar, I felt genuine gratitude, and did my best to say “please” and “thank you.”  It was such an honor to be in the presence of these three midwives as well, also fellow sisters of mine who had each birthed babies of their own.  I welcomed all of their encouragement, soothing voices, and gentle touch as they comforted me.  I would hardly notice when they held the doppler to my lower belly to listen to your heartbeat during and after contractions.  Each time they reminded me how strong your heartbeat was and how well you were doing with labor.  When I got in the tub, we put Bebel Gilberto, some of my favorite Brazilian music on the ipod.  Her first song is called Baby, and I smiled when Tara realized that we were both singing about our babies (except I would never get a recording contract with my deep moans and tones, and her Baby was a lover, not an infant!)

I threw up one or two more times in the tub as well, and was uncomfortable with the heartburn.  Catherine watched me step my feet against the tub wall through a contraction and reminded me that my baby was doing the same thing, stepping its feet against the top of my uterus as it moved down.  It made a big difference to make a connection to the intense and uncomfortable sensations I was experiencing with each contraction to the baby inside of me that we were going to meet very soon.  After particularly strong and long contractions, Tara always seemed pleased and gently told me how strong contractions like that were exactly what was going to help birth this baby, and that the uncomfortable pelvic pressure was the baby moving down the birth canal.  Audra often called my contractions “beautiful,” I believe both because of the strength of my body working to birth you as well as the way my body knew just what to do and just how to move as I did my best to stay relaxed through contractions.  I was so thankful for the gentle reminders that the pain I was experiencing had a very special purpose, and even though I hadn’t met you yet, you were that special purpose. 
But just like the previous time in the tub, things got very hard.  Contractions were on top of each other, and I remember crying for a moment that I didn’t even get a break between them.  I felt as if I was entitled to at least have a few seconds between contractions before the next one started!  I felt daunted that I wasn’t even finished yet.  I’d been working so hard for such a long time, and I hadn’t even begun to start pushing yet.  How would I find the energy and strength to get through pushing?  I complained (again) that I was just too tired of doing this, and I wanted labor to be finished.  I wanted all of the sensations to just stop.  I remember crying that I would be in labor forever, and I couldn’t do it anymore, be in labor forever.  Tara reminded me of all the progress I was making, especially with the pressure I was feeling, and how it was very clear that my baby was moving and getting ready to be born.  Audra told me how different this was than the last time I was in the tub, and how my body was doing just what it needed to do. 

Still, I remember being daunted that labor had been so much effort up until this point and I still hadn’t even started pushing yet.  How in the world, I wondered, would I ever find the energy and strength to push?  It took everything I had to just move through contractions!  Sometimes I also felt like I should apologize to Audra, Tara, and Catherine for taking so long to birth this baby, as if my labor was a huge inconvenience to them.  But I never said anything, because I also knew how much they were also honored to be there birthing with us, and the entire labor they made me feel so good because I knew they were here to support and care for me physically during labor, and be part of the experience with us of your daddy and I welcoming you into our family.
I remember your daddy being in the bathroom with me when things were especially intense, and just shouting out to God to help me get through this, praying for the strength to get through.  Your daddy prayed with me as well.

The pressure was becoming so intense with each contraction that I flailed through contractions, writhing from side to side, but unable to find a place or a position that offered any relief.  I started feeling a little grunty pushy, like I wanted to bare down just so slightly to get some relief during contractions.  Sometime during a contraction, I felt a little pop inside me that almost felt like gas in my bowels.  It felt like I had a gigantic poop waiting to come out in both my butt and my birth canal.  The pop was my water breaking.  Tara saw a small gush of blood come out as well, and a few pieces of vernix.  They continued listening to your heartbeat, which remained strong, as usual.  I think I may have vomited when my membranes ruptured, because I vaguely remember making a joke about things coming out of me from all over the place.

Catherine helped me out of the tub and dry off.  I sat on the toilet to pee, which triggered a contraction but I felt like I had nowhere to go but just sit through it.  I turned around and looked at the clock, curious.  I was sure it must be about 3 or 4 in the afternoon, but it was only just past 1:00 p.m..  They helped me over to the bed, which was now lined with chux pads.  I climbed on my hands and knees.  I had cold chills and was sweating with heat, plus still a little wet.  It was all I could do to muster “blanket” to ask for it either on or off.  Tara instructed me a bit on how to push, encouraging me to wait until I had the urge. Earlier, I had asked Audra if the contractions went away during pushing.  I quickly learned that no, they don’t go away.

I leaned forward on propped up pillows and soon had a contraction where I felt the urge to push.  I wasn’t sure how, and my first push felt like I was just testing the waters and figuring out what to do. With the next contraction I bared down and pushed.  At first, pushing was a very scary feeling, the first moment in labor that felt truly out-of-control.  I could feel the strength of the contraction and it was a scary feeling to meet that contraction with my strong pushes.  The sensation was unfamiliar and frightening, something very big (you!) inside of my birth canal.  After the contraction ended there was no relief to the intensity I was feeling, and for a moment I felt a little panicky.  I had never felt something so strong and powerful in my life, and it was pressing on me from the inside of my body and there wasn’t anything I could do about it.  It was so scary at first because even when I finished pushing, the sensation remained.  It was so intense.  Tara encouraged me to let the sensation to push really build up, because pushing takes a lot of energy.  So with every contraction, I chanted to myself, “Let it build, let it build.”  I realized that in order to push and get through these intense sensations, I had to let myself go and meet each contraction with the strength of my pushing, the strength of my own body. Withe the next contraction, I pushed.  I waited until the peak of the contraction, and pushed a few times, baring down with everything I could find within me.  The sounds that came out of my mouth surprised me.  I have never felt so strong and powerful as during pushing.  Pushing was hard work but it was nice to not notice the contractions themselves anymore, and it was nice to finally participate in a way that I couldn’t during contractions.  I liked how my body knew how to push, and when the urge came to push, there was nothing to do but to just move with it and push.
However, I was still aware that your head inside me was BIG.  It sure felt big.  I told the midwives that there is no way it was possibly going to fit, it was just impossible.  I thought that if your daddy and I ever had a second child, we should probably just adopt, but at this point I realized that there was no way out but through, and that somehow I was going to push you out.  But Tara and Audra both insisted that your head would fit, and it was fitting.  Not only did I have a roomy pelvis with plenty of room through which to push you out, but I was also pushing effectively and making progress.  The baby was just working now to get under the pubic arch, they told me, but it was close.  Just reach inside and feel your baby’s head, they told me.  I thought it was impossible, but I reached down to feel your head inside me.  I thought it would be impossible for me to feel your head inside me, but I did.  You were only about as far away as my second knuckle or so.  I couldn’t believe you were that close.  I exclaimed, “That’s our BABY!” and was amazed and encouraged to feel your head.  It instantly reminded me that you were the purpose for all the work I’d been doing- we had been doing-and that you were that purpose!

Your daddy knelt on the bed beside me, touching and comforting me, and Tara wiped cold washcloths across my forehead and offered me sips of water after each push.  Audra asked me if I wanted to see your head, and placed a mirror on the bed below me.  It was amazing to see a sliver of head peeking through.  I was working so hard and concentrating that I wasn’t really even paying attention to watching you, but I definitely noticed that with each contraction and each push, I could see more and more of your head. 

Finally, I felt an uncomfortable burning sensation and I didn’t want to push any more.  But when I looked down, I could see so much of your head, and even after I stopped pushing, your head was still visible.  “Am I crowning?” I asked, though it was pretty clear and obvious that your head was on its way out!  Maybe one more contraction and your head was definitely more out than in.  I asked if the head was out, and she said it was out to the chin, and asked me for one more small push and then to stop pushing while she checked for a cord around your neck.  I could see the back of your head as I looked down between my legs.  I don’t remember anything what your daddy and Audra and Tara each said, but Audra put some oil on my perineum.  I watched your head rotate to my left thigh, and then heard the word “shoulder” and before I knew it, you slid out of my body.  I didn’t even push out your body, but you glided out of me and were gently eased onto the bed.  I heard you cry and I saw you beneath me and joyfully shouted, “We have a baby! We have a baby!”  I looked over at your Daddy and felt overwhelmed with how much I loved him, and how we just had a baby together.  I felt like it would be impossible to love him any deeper, but I was just so happy, exclaiming that we have a baby!  Someone helped me roll over on my back, and I was propped up leaning against pillows with you on my stomach.  Tara and Catherine dried you off with warmed flannel receiving blankets, and I was overwhelmed with love for my family.  My legs shook uncontrollably.  I wasn’t hot or cold, but I was just shaking.  Your daddy embraced and held me closely, and we looked at you with amazement. 
After a few minutes, Audra asked me to feel the cord, which had stopped pulsing.  She believed that our placenta detached from the wall of my uterus very quickly.  She started preparing to cut the cord, and your daddy came back from the bathroom.  When you came out of my body, you splashed your daddy and got him pretty wet with blood and amniotic fluid, even soaking his pants.  Audra clamped the cord and your daddy cut it.  By this time the cord had no more blood in it, and you couldn’t feel it at all when it was cut. 

I put you to my breast immediately, but you weren’t yet interested in nursing right away.  You still had a bit of fluid in your lungs which you were still getting out, and Tara reassured me that it was normal for you to take a few minutes to be interested in nursing.  So I just held you, naked against my chest, and fell deeper in love with you, and deeper in love with your daddy.  I felt like I must be the most blessed person on the planet to have such a beautiful family.  You were created out of the love between your mamma and daddy, and we welcomed you into our lives with so much joy and excitement.
We still didn’t know if you were a boy or a girl yet.  We were just so excited to finally meet you and we were already so in love with you that we forgot to even check.  None of us can actually remember if we checked before or after your cord was cut.  We all think it was after, but logically, even your daddy wonders how he could have cut the cord but not noticed.  Anyway, we soon learned that we had a daughter, and we were so thrilled!  Secretly, I had hoped the entire pregnancy with you that you were our daughter, and it was a wonderful joy to finally see you!

Afterwards, I easily delivered my placenta with a small push when I felt a cramp.  Audra reminded me that the placenta had no bones, so it would feel very easy.  Then, your daddy held you against his bare chest while Tara checked me for any tears.  I had a very small first-degree tear.  Tara put a few stitches in to help it heal, and I didn’t even hardly notice because you were back on my chest and I was distracted by how beautiful you were. 

At some point we all asked what time you had actually been born, and no one seemed to have paid attention except for Catherine, who said you were born at 2:18 p.m. on Monday, October 24th.  After a few hours of holding you against both of our chests, Audra examined you.  I sat on the bed eating some rice and soup and watched.  She listened to your heart and lungs (both strong and perfect), your respirations, and checked all your reflexes.  She checked each part of your body.  You were so tiny and precious that I just wanted to kiss you all over.  You were born with a full head of soft dark hair.  We put a hat on you so that you would stay nice and warm, but I loved to smell you.  As I write this, you are now three days old, and I still hold you next to my nose and inhale you.  I love the way you smell, and sometimes I want to just lick you the way a mother cat licks her kittens.  Your head still smells like it did the day you were born, and I like to take off your little hat and drink in the smell.
Your head was about 13” around, and you were 20.25” long and weighed 7 pounds and 4 ounces.  You have a little dimple on your right cheek, and your fingers and toes are long, like piano players.  You make beautiful little faces, and your arms would move all over the place, because you couldn’t quite control them.  Your APGAR scores were 8 and 9 (at one minute and five minutes), and you are healthy and perfect.  There were no complications for either of us during labor.  In fact, your heartbeat stayed strong the entire time and you handled labor really well.

I know that this story of your birth makes it sound like giving birth to you was really challenging and hard.  While it is true that it was the hardest thing I have ever done, it was also the most incredible thing I have ever done.  Even more, it was the most incredible thing your daddy and I got to share together.  Neither of us will ever forget this experience of your birth.  With your daddy, even though a baby (you!) came out of my body, we brought you into this world together.  Your daddy and I both had a baby the day you were born.  I did not labor alone.  Every challenging moment of the birthing process was worth it to see your face for the first time, and the moment we first held you, I forgot everything about how much work labor had been.  We expected labor to be hard work, and it was worth every second.  You, my precious daughter, were worth every single moment we spent in labor together, and I would do it again for you in a heartbeat.  The amazing thing was how quickly I forgot about the hard parts!

I also want you to know that you were also a part of my body, as well as your daddy and I, giving birth to you.  While you were in my womb, you were also experiencing the contractions, and you were moving and working your way down, settling your head into my pelvis, and moving and adjusting as you navigated down the birth canal.  You worked really hard to be born as well, and I remember feeling so grateful for you and the way you and I worked together during labor.  You also worked really hard, and you were so strong the entire time.

Your midwives, Audra and Tara, and their apprentice Catherine all agree that you are precious and amazing.  Audra expressed to us how much she enjoyed being at a birth as beautiful as ours.  She said that attending your birth helped remind her why she became a midwife in the first place.  Tara also told me how special it was for her to witness you being born and share in this special time of watching our family grow.  She  told us that it was very much an honor to have spent this time with our family.
The day your daddy and I got married was the first best day of our life.  The day you were born was also the best day of our life.  We are just so happy, and birthing you was so amazing.  You made us each a mother and a father.  We are YOUR mamma and daddy!

As I write this, you are now 3 days old and just as precious as the day you were born.  Last night I looked at you sleeping and began to cry, remembering that you would never be 1 day old again, and you would never be 2 days old again.  I was so in love with you that it made me cry with joy.  Today, I love you even more.  As I’m typing, you are curled up on my chest, inside of my shirt.  Your cheek is against my skin and you are easily close enough to kiss, which is good because I can’t stop kissing you. 

I loved being pregnant with you, and I loved giving birth to you.  Since you were born, I still think of your birth constantly.  I want to remember every single detail of the experience and share it with you.  My precious daughter Palesa, you changed our lives the day you were born, and completely filled our hearts with joy.  Your daddy and I are overwhelmed with love for each other, and love for you.
I know this letter has gotten very long, but before I end it, I want to tell you the story of  how we chose your name, Palesa Sela May.  We named you yesterday, and below is something your daddy wrote.
Amy Benson May and Osei May have chosen a name. Our daughter shall be called Palesa Sela May. Palesa (pah-LAY-sah) is an African name from the country Lesotho meaning "flower." Sela (SEE-la) is a biblical name/word meaning "rock." Our little daughter is preciously beautiful as a flower and strong like a rock. She has might in her hands and a strong grip. She can lift up her neck already and she can suck like a Dyson. Her name suits her features and personality. We wanted to get to know her first before naming her. You can see why we waited.
Much love,

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Congrats to parents of baby Mojo Born at home on 2/12/11

I was cautiously excited and trying not to get my hopes up for real labor since there were three previous times that week that I thought I had been in labor. I called my homebirth midwife, Tara Kenny. We called our parents and my husband’s sister around 4pm and told them that I “might” be in labor and that we’d keep them posted. We returned home and started organizing the last details for our homebirth. My husband (D) set up the tub, but Tara had cautioned us not to fill it till I was in active labor and I still wasn’t totally sure I was in labor. We finished making some playlists. We turned on “In the Line of Fire” which we had started the previous evening. The contractions were getting stronger and were about 6 minutes apart. I needed to focus during the contractions but between them I was normal and chatting.
By 6:30pm we decided that this was most likely labor and started organizing childcare for our son and calling D’s sister- who was going to be present to take photographs and help out with anything else.  I was feeling a little nervous that this was not labor and that we were going to get all these people organized and then have to tell them that it wasn’t the real thing. I asked my husband to call Tara to see if we should fill up the tub. I didn’t feel like talking on the phone. 
After the various calls, we decided to turn off the movie and listen to some of the music. Fatboy Slim’s “Praise You” came on and we danced together in the dark living room. This was one of the best parts of the whole labor! I was starting to realize that it was the real thing – we were really going to have this baby – really soon – really now. I felt a huge gush of love flow out of me for my husband, for my son, for Mojo (baby on the way) and for our family. I felt very lucky and thankful to be there in the dark living room so full of love.
Not long after this I started to feel like I really needed to concentrate between the contractions as well. I asked my husband to move the rocking chair into the birth room (our second bedroom). We moved there, turned on the crystal salt lamp that we borrowed from our yoga teacher and I rocked. I didn’t want D to touch me but I wanted him close by. I think this was around 8pm although time starts to get very fuzzy here. In between contractions I was half-heartedly helping D fill the birth tub, but knew I wouldn’t be able to do this for too much longer.
At 8:30 Tara arrived and came in to say hello and monitor the baby’s heart rate. I said “hi” between contractions, but immediately went back to concentrating and rocking. My sister in law arrived shortly thereafter. I labored in the rocking chair until about 10pm (which I only know because of looking at the timestamp on the photos) and then Tara suggested that I get in the tub.
I was very hot so it felt nice to take off my clothes and get in the tub. It felt great to be in the tub water and to feel somewhat floaty. I labored there for awhile and Tara asked me if I felt pressure or wanted to push. I said maybe, but maybe not. I really wasn’t sure and definitely felt like there was no way I was at the pushing stage yet. In retrospect, I guess I was psyching myself up for a marathon labor like my first one with my son, so during the experience I was sure I needed 4-5 more hours to get totally dilated.
Somewhere in here D got in the tub with me and held me or pressed on my back during contractions. This was great to have him so close. I was acutely aware of his presence throughout the labor and didn’t want him to leave my side.
Somewhere around 10:30/11, Tara’s partner Audra Karp arrived with Catherine Stamatos, a student midwife.
At a certain point, Tara said she thought I was holding back and I told her I was scared to push because I didn’t think I was ready. She said she could check me (they had not done any checks up to that point) and Dave said he thought it was a good idea. He knew I was not convinced that I could be ready to have the baby yet. So I said yes, let’s check, but then Tara said it would be best to get out of the tub to pee and then be checked. This was a terrible thought to me and I couldn’t think of moving to the other room and getting on our bed, so I said I would stay in the tub.
After a couple more contractions, I decided I would try and get out of the tub to pee. I thought to myself that there is no way that any pee is coming out of me but I got out to try. She suggested pushing while on the toilet. I started and gave a couple of real pushes – whoa! It felt good and it felt right to push. I started feeling elated! The baby really WAS going to come much faster than my first. Here I was already pushing – amazing! I started really going for it and Tara said “OK if you want to have a water birth…get back in the tub.”
I somehow maneuvered back to the tub and got on my knees with my hands on the edge of the tub. I gave a couple of giant pushes over the next few contractions and was so excited to feel the head coming down and out. It was almost out. So on the next contraction I gave several huge pushes (they really ARE pushes, not “breathing the baby down”) and felt the head come out. Someone said that he was being born in the bag of waters and to reach down and feel it. I did and it felt very bizarre – gelatinous and sort of alien.
I asked “Is the head out?” and the midwives said “Not quite”. Arg! I was sure it was out! So I decided that now the head would REALLY come out and gave a huge push and Mojo’s whole body shot into the water. D said later he was so stunned that he couldn’t catch the baby. Luckily Tara was ready and caught him. Tara handed me my baby and we didn’t even look to see if it was a boy or girl. I held him and cried “My baby, my baby” and felt the hugest sense of relief and elation and wonder and everything all at once. I couldn’t believe how smoothly and quickly this birth had gone! It was amazing and perfect!! In retrospect, from the midwives’ notes, I only pushed for 15 minutes.
After a couple minutes of catching my breath and holding little Mojo against my chest I said “oh we better see if this is a boy or girl”. We looked and although I had bet on girl this baby was definitely a boy. I said something like “Oh My Boy!!! Well, we have to have a girl next!” D told me later he was amazed that I was talking about having another about 5 minutes after giving birth.
From there, everything was cake. They got me out of the tub to deliver the placenta, baby Mojo started nursing almost immediately, and everyone went about cleaning up and celebrating and chatting. D cut the umbilical cord. We did the newborn exam in the bed. They got me up to pee a couple times (which felt like amazing relief). And I snuggled with my brand new baby . Somewhere around 4am I ate the rest of the turkey sandwich that I had at lunch (the best sandwich ever, from Hi-Rise Bakery) and felt really thankful that I was at home, in my bed, with my new baby, awesome husband, loving sister-in-law and best-ever-turkey-sandwich. YUM!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Congrats to Kerry and her family! A beautiful homebirth on 1.8.11

Kerry's oldest daughter cut the cord

                                         My Amazing Homebirth
For my previous two births, I prided myself in choosing an OB affiliated with a large Boston teaching hospital.  And when there were placental complications (one major) during both deliveries, I was convinced at how “lucky” I was to be in that large teaching hospital with that experienced OB. 
It wasn’t until I was entering the third trimester of my third pregnancy that I came to my senses and realized that the complications I experienced in my previous deliveries were a direct result of the unnecessary inductions and medical interventions of OB-orchestrated, medicalized births.  After much researching and soul-searching, I realized that my body could birth a baby without incident if I just let nature do what it was meant to do. 
I was very lucky to meet Audra Karp randomly at a toddler playgroup prior to my “epiphany” about the potential dangers of medicalized, hospital births.  As the weeks passed into my third trimester and I finally arrived at my decision for a natural homebirth, I was thrilled to have Audra as my midwife.  Her knowledge, reassurance and calm demeanor were the key qualities that led to my amazing homebirth. 
At 41 weeks, I happily went into labor on my own and my contractions quickly progressed from 10 minutes to 3 minutes apart.  Audra, her student midwife, Catherine, and Audra’s partner midwife, Tara Kenny, arrived in the middle of the night and prepared their supplies while I labored in my living room.  The early part of labor was much more tolerable than I anticipated.  Having had two prior inductions with early epidurals, I was apprehensive about what real labor would feel like.  Fortunately, it was nothing like Pitocin contractions and it was so nice to be able to walk freely through my home and labor as I needed to.  As the contractions grew stronger, I gravitated more toward the bedroom where the midwives were located.  I had no desire or need for a shower or bath but as the labor intensified and I got close to pushing, I was thrilled to use Audra’s birthing stool. 
Prior to labor, I was worried that I would lose control at some point in the labor and think “this was a mistake,” or “I need an epidural,” or “I can’t do this.”  Fortunately, that never happened for me.  I feel like during the most intense part of labor, I went into the natural labor “zone” where it’s easier to block out external stimuli.  It was just as intense as I thought it would be, but I never felt like it was more than I could handle.  Audra and her partners were unbelievably supportive.   They provided constant care and attention—at my request—and reassured me when contractions were most intense with calm statements, like: “That’s just your baby,” and “You’re fine, your baby’s fine, you’re doing great.” 
At labor’s peak, I remember thinking, “someone please help me!” And when it became clear to me that I was the only one who could help me, I pushed the baby out!  I had a slight hemorrhage after the baby was born, which Audra quickly stopped with a Pitocin injection.  The placenta was ready to be delivered, but I think given my previous hospital-birth baggage, I subconsciously couldn’t push it out until after awhile Audra reassured me that the placenta was detached and everything was fine.  When I ultimately pushed the placenta out, I sobbed and sobbed, filled with such relief that all was fine, anger over my previous births, and joy at my amazing, perfect homebirth.
I truly wish I had known in my earlier pregnancies what I learned in my third: that homebirths are safe, beautiful, empowering and truly the way that nature intended for babies to be born.  Thank you Audra, Tara and Catherine!