What is your Favorite Birth Story?

November 10, 2008

Hi Everyone,

I need your help. Can you post a comment and let me know which story or stories in Journey into Motherhood: Inspirational Stories of Natural Birth is your favorite?

You don’t even have to have the book to comment. There are plenty of stories in this blog.

Tell me what you liked about the story and why. Is this a story you read as an expectant woman, as a birth worker junkie, etc.?

More Birth Stories – Yael Solomon

November 7, 2008

Birth story excerpted from Sheri Menelli’s book Journey into Motherhood: Inspirational Stories of Natural Birth

More stories at https://smenelli.wordpress.com

In My Deepest Meditation
By Yael Solomon

To my dearest Yakir Daniel,

YOU REST, SECURELY CUDDLED at my breast, as I begin to process your birth. I have wanted to write it down for the past three months, ever since you entered my life, but I haven’t found the perfect moment… until now.

Your father, Amichai, and I returned home after spending the weekend with my parents. We joined them at a barbecue with friends before heading out on our two-and-a-half-hour drive back to Philadelphia. Although I am not much of a meat eater, that day I seemed to have consumed enough steak and hot dogs to feed a small army. Unbeknownst to me at the time, my body was storing energy for your labor, just hours away. The barbecue was fun and I laughed a lot, deep penetrating laughs. At one point, I thought I felt a muscle pull from a particularly long belly laugh. In retrospect, it was my labor starting. Your aba (father) and I believe that you were created with laughter, and therefore it was only appropriate that your birth began with laughter.

After we arrived home and settled in, I began my nightly ritual of yoga stretches. Without this thirty-minute practice, I was unable to sleep. At around 2:00 in the morning, I was still stretching! I realized that these “tight muscles” were probably contractions! This was it! I’d finally get to meet you! I woke up Amichai to tell him and he went into shock. He told me to try to sleep, or relax and to try to do my birth project. Yet the contractions were getting closer together and more intense. All I could focus on was you.

At this point, your aba had fully awakened and called in our support—the midwife Barbara, and Yiscah, my soul sister. When I called your grandfather, instead of passing the phone over to my mother, he hung up on me! It was 2:30 in the morning! I had to wait for the next contraction to wash over me before calling again.

Your aba was in rare form—filling up the birthing pool, clearing an area for the midwife to place her equipment, lighting candles and putting on the music we had chosen to welcome you into the world.
The world was so dark and still; your aba and I submerged together in the birthing pool—alone and intimate before the cavalry began to arrive. You had been created with love and light, and we wanted a private moment to complete that circle of life, your creation and your birth.

As people began to arrive, they respected the quiet atmosphere we had created. We wanted your entrance into this world to be as peaceful and serene as possible. Yiscah arrived first, relaxed and aglow. She and Amichai took turns massaging my back and hips for 11 hours. They offered words of encouragement as they escorted me to and from the bathroom.

I remember being in the warm water and surrendering to the contractions. They were the intense energy that was bringing you forth into the world. I loved every second of it! It wasn’t painful; it was intense. It was an experience I had never had before and one that I would never forget. This was something only you and I felt. It created a truly spiritual bond between us, a bond that I will always cherish. I know that there were other people in the room, a halo of support and love, yet I was hardly aware of them. I was cognizant of your aba’s loving touch and Yiscah’s soothing hands, but that’s it. I too was encased in a womb—waters that brought me back to the Garden of Eden, where the universe began. I was in touch with all women from all time who had given birth and who will give birth. It was such a feeling of empowerment!

At one point, I was asked by the midwife to get out of the pool to encourage my cervix to open. I had been pushing prematurely and as a result my cervix had begun to swell. I guess I was just really eager to meet you! That was an incredibly intense time—the room was dark and very still. I could hear the candles flicker and the incense smoke waft through our intimate home. I lay incredibly still, in my deepest meditation. I don’t think I had ever achieved such a level of spiritual focus, except at your aba’s and my wedding. Suddenly I felt a shift in the room, and sensed Sara Imeinu’s (Sara, the matriarch’s) presence. She represented all women to me and guided me through this most challenging part of my labor. “Open up. You are a vessel,” she kept softly repeating in my ear. It worked. I tapped into resiliency that I had stored in my soul and made it through—bright, glistening and glowing.
Barbara, my midwife, wanted to check my dilation while I was on our bed to make sure the cervix was completely dilated before I got back into the pool for the water birth we had planned. But higher powers were at work and this was not meant to be. Your heart rate began to drop and Barbara felt you should be birthed on the bed, on my back. It was the VERY position I was so adamantly against. This was the birthing position that used to be enforced (and sometimes still is) in hospitals for the convenience of the doctor, and often to the disservice of the laboring mother. Yet, did I hesitate? Did I protest? NOT FOR A SECOND! Your well-being was of utmost importance, not my birthing plan. I was becoming a mother. You taught me the precious lesson that every mother needs to know—the practice of surrender. I had to let go of the “perfect” birth to make space for your birth, which was the true birth. Once I had learned this invaluable lesson, you entered my life.

I had told the midwife that I wanted to catch you when you were born. However, at the time of your birth, it was not a passive act. It was active and primal. I claimed you. You were mine. I placed you, slippery and precious, on my naked skin and embraced you. You slowly crept your way to my breast to receive your hard-earned nourishment. Thank you for entering my life and choosing me to be your mommy.

I love you, Yakir Daniel.

Your ima (mommy)

A Mother’s Guidance: I recall so eagerly anticipating the birth of my first child, and I was told more “horror” stories than “beauty” stories; yet I was determined to create my own story, my own memory. Our home birth was the most empowering experience I have ever had. Since his birth two years ago, I have given birth to his sister, Ma’ayan Neomi, in a home water birth. Suggested reading to support a natural birth: Birthing from Within by Pam England and Rob Horowitz, and Mothering magazine.

Yael Solomon, her husband Amichai, and their two children live in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania. Yael is originally an American, but moved to Israel eight years ago, where she met and married her husband. They returned to the States for a few years but plan to move back to Israel in the future. Professionally, Yael is a psychologist and has worked in Israel as a crisis-intervention and trauma counselor. She was part of a team that responded to terrorist attacks, treated the victims and their families, and helped the communities heal. Here in America, Yael is a full-time mom. She works in her son’s Montessori school, teaching Hebrew.

Looking for expectant couples for TV

November 5, 2008

I thought I’d post this for Sheri Daniels of the Miami Maternity Center to see if we can help them raise awareness of non-clinical birth

If you know of an expectant couple who are interested, please contact Zach.

My name is Zach Marion and I work at Video Arts Studios in Fargo, North Dakota. We produced the series House of Babies for the Discovery Health Network. Under the guidance of master midwife, Sheri Daniels, at the Miami Maternity Center, the show follows couples during their pregnancy and ends with the delivery of their baby. It was very instrumental in raising awareness about non-clinical birthing practices on a national level.

Recently we have been approached to create a one-hour special on unique birthing practices worldwide. We are looking for families who would like to share their story on camera from pregnancy to delivery. Ideal candidates are expecting mothers due in or around early January who are planning to give birth outside of a clinic or birth center. This includes homebirths and beyond. The point of the show is to raise awareness about alternative birthing options with the help of a midwife in the US. Hopefully, the special will create a healthy dialogue among midwives, doctors, parents-to-be and the general public. Stories that are of particular interest are those that include interesting traditions during pregnancy and unique backdrops during delivery. For example, a Hindu family who want to deliver outside, or a family of hippies who are pursuing a homebirth in a tent.

As you can imagine, access is usually the greatest struggle. Families should be aware that our presence at the birth goes nearly unnoticed. We learned to be unobtrusive through experience gained while producing 26 episodes of House of Babies.

Do any clients spring to mind who might want to be a part of this project? I would greatly appreciate any and all contact leads. Feel free to contact me by phone with inquiries or information. I am available during weekdays between 8:00 and 5:00 CST. Thank you for your time.

— Zach Marion
Video Arts Studios
1440 4th Avenue North
Fargo, North Dakota 58102
(701) 232-3393

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A secret homebirth

November 5, 2008

Excerpted from Sheri Menelli’s book Journey into Motherhood: Inspirational Stories of Natural Birth. For more stories go to https://smenelli.wordpress.com

A Secret Home Birth
By Gina Kennedy

MY HUSBAND ROB and I have three children, all born naturally. During our first pregnancy, we knew we wanted to have our baby naturally, but we had no one to turn to for support or advice. My mom could barely remember giving birth in the 1960s. She said she had been so drugged, she hardly knew her own name! In the 1980s, my older sister had a C-section because her baby was breech. She went on to have two VBACs (vaginal birth after cesarean), but not without anesthesia. In speaking to other parents that we knew, we had not come across anyone who had a natural birth. It was frightening for me to realize that I was attempting to do something that had not been done by anyone familiar to me.

I began to read everything I could about natural childbirth. It may sound extreme, but in 1995, choosing to have a natural birth was a bit of a battle. My husband and I found that there was not much of a support system in place for women who wanted to give birth naturally; you had to work hard for it. We had to listen to our elders say, “Just take the drugs, why put yourself through all that pain?” They honestly believed that the drugs were harmless.

Today, a few clicks on the Internet will teach you that the drug in an epidural may be just a few molecules away from crack cocaine! We had to deal with many ignorant people who would ask us, “What is a midwife?” In the next sentence, they would be lecturing us on why we really should use a doctor to have a baby, when they didn’t even know that most midwives have more hours and training in birth than obstetricians.

Our first two children were born at a birth center in Pennsylvania, where the staff included midwives with an obstetrician on call who could assist if circumstances led you to deliver at the hospital across the street. It was a great facility, with four bedroom suites decorated much like a home. In the corner of each suite was a large tub for anyone who wanted to labor in warm water. In the lobby area, there was a nice living room with a full kitchen, a play area for children, and plenty of room for siblings and grandparents to be together while waiting for the arrival of their newest family member. They even had great flags that announced “It’s a Girl!” or “It’s a Boy!” for the proud siblings to display on a special pole outside the building. It was the perfect setting for us to birth our babies.
When it came time to have our third baby, we had just moved to New Jersey and found that there were no birth centers in the state at that time. We did our research and found a nearby practice of midwives who delivered at a local hospital. While living in Pennsylvania, we had not considered a home birth because the birth center was just perfect, and we were concerned that our home was too far away from the nearest hospital, should complications arise. While I always held the idea of a home birth in the back of my mind, Rob was uncomfortable with the idea. I never really pushed the issue, until we toured the hospital I was to give birth in.

During the hospital tour for expectant parents, I watched him raising his hand to ask questions about every detail of the tour. People were beginning to make faces. It seemed that Rob was perplexed by every other sentence that came out of the tour guide’s mouth! For example, he wanted to know why the babies were separated from the mother between the delivery room and recovery room. He was told it was a safety matter. The babies needed the heat of an incubator to stay warm while being transported from one room to another. Our first two babies stayed warm on my chest after they were born. They nursed and cuddled and never left my side. When my husband explained this and questioned their reasoning, they said that it was an insurance matter, and it would be unsafe for the baby to be held in the mother’s arms while they were transported from one room to another. Then came the question, why were we moving so much from room to room? Nothing made sense, and we sadly seemed to be the only ones on the tour who felt that way. We left the hospital tour disgusted. After our experiences at a birth center, we knew we could not possibly give birth there. At this point it didn’t take much to convince my husband that maybe we should reconsider a home birth, so I made an appointment with a local midwifery practice.

We met with two midwives, Gee Gee and Linda, to discuss whether we could be candidates for a home birth. By this time I was in my seventh month, so we needed to meet with the back-up obstetrician and have my medical records sent from the other midwifery practice. I was healthy and having a good pregnancy, and with two previous natural deliveries, it didn’t take much to deem me a suitable candidate for a home birth. We were very happy about our decision. It seemed as if a weight had been lifted. There were no more uneasy feelings and fears about whether the hospital staff would allow us the type of birth we wanted. We knew that the home birth would be the best for everyone in our family.

Unfortunately, we could not tell our parents about our home birth plans—they had been questioning our decision to use midwives since our first pregnancy. We were lectured constantly. “Shouldn’t you have a real doctor there?” Talk about not having support! Not only was there no one we could call on for advice about natural childbirth, everywhere we turned we found ourselves defending and explaining our choices. So we kept the big secret.

We pretended that we were still using the midwifery practice that delivered at the hospital, and we privately prepared our young children for the home birth.

My husband didn’t care who knew we were having a home birth, but I could not bear the thought of all the difficult conversations that I would inevitably find myself in. I just didn’t have the energy or attention to satisfy other people’s curiosity, or deal with their insecurity and lack of faith in nature. I much preferred to concentrate on preparing my two young children for the day they would witness a miracle. Our son was five years old, our daughter two and a half. Our midwives offered a library full of videos and books that we could take home and share with the children to help them prepare for the birth. Birth in the Squatting Position was by far their favorite video… they liked to see the placenta cthe floor! They kept asking me to rewind it, watching it over and over in amazement. It was one big science project for them.

We chose to have a water birth in our sunroom. This was also a big hit with our children, because the birthing tub looked just like a kiddy pool. Our midwife dropped it off at the house a few weeks before my due date, and from that point on we got many requests from the children to set up the pool. They were ready!

When the baby was ready, the contractions began on a weekday morning. I went about my usual business, taking my children to school and their other activities. By the afternoon, I was in labor. My husband came home to set up the tub. It came with a sterile liner that needed to be attached to the inside of the tub prior to filling it. I tried to relax on the hammock in my yard while Rob prepared our sunroom. When he came outside to check on me, something made me ask if he remembered to put in the sterile liner. He smiled and quickly headed back inside to empty the tub and start over.

A few weeks before this day, we had made the decision to let my older sister Michele in on the big secret so that she could be there to support us. We knew we could count on her, even though she had not experienced natural childbirth herself. She was someone who sincerely wished that she had, and was not the type of person who would question our decision. She arrived and helped bake a birthday cake (organic carrot!) with the children while I labored. I preferred to labor in the warm water of the tub, but got out a few times to let gravity help things along. It was a perfect labor. I used the buoyancy and warmth of the water to manage my pain, and I walked around a bit to help the labor progress.

My support team was amazing! The midwives used a Doppler to listen to the baby’s heartbeat, but they allowed me to labor naturally, without internal exams that could introduce or increase the chance of infection. My doula, Denise, held firm pressure on a point between my thumb and hand, and helped administer homeopathic remedies for labor that had been prescribed by our family homeopath. Even my five-year-old son, Robbie, held my hand during parts of the labor.

I remember telling myself during each contraction, “You won’t remember this pain.” That mantra had worked well for me during my previous labor, and it was true — I didn’t remember the pain. I kept thinking about holding my new baby. After a few hours, I felt a change in my contractions, a feeling similar to having to poop. Suddenly I was unaware of my surroundings. I was unaware that Denise had begun to take incredible photos of the birth. I was on my knees, leaning on the edge of the tub with my arms folded. GeeGee had placed a mirror on the bottom of the tub so that she could see what was going on without disturbing my comfortable position. Denise’s camera caught the reflection in the mirror, and you could see a dark shadow protruding… my baby’s head making its way out. I concentrated on keeping my breathing deep and slow. I remember Linda saying, “Keep it low,” which helped me moan through the pain in a productive way. Anytime my voice got high, it broke my concentration and my breathing became erratic.

It was dark outside, and the room was softly lit. My water broke during my first push, and my baby was born slowly through the next three contractions. I was not aware of whether or not my children were in the room, until I heard my daughter Erin’s sweet voice say, “Baby.” She was at the edge of the tub, watching as his head came out; then a pause; then his shoulders and waist came out; another pause…. He was floating with his arms out; then his legs followed, and with a hand from his dad, he floated up into my arms. Denise’s photos captured the entire sequence, as if it had been shot as a movie and then edited into freeze frames. It was such a gentle birth. The whole time, Robbie was at the edge of the tub taking pictures with his camera. Since Denise was also taking pictures, the back of Robbie’s head is in many of her photos. It is really funny to see the Mickey Mouse instamatic sticking out from the side of his head as he clicked away. He wanted to be the one to identify the sex, and when he took a look, he squealed, “A pee-pee, it’s a boy!”

I got out of the tub so that Molly could draw the cord blood for storage. Molly was a CNM associate who had asked to come along for the experience of drawing the cord blood. Stem cell storage was still so new at that time, and many midwives were not experienced with the practice.

My baby nursed immediately and then rested on my chest while we collected the cord blood. My children got impatient with me, asking, “Where’s the placenta?” The midwives laughed at how eager they were to see the placenta. The children took turns trying to cut the cord, and my husband helped their tiny hands manage the scissors. After I delivered the placenta, Linda took the children to the kitchen table for a “placenta show.” She taught them everything they could possibly want to know about it. Robbie took a whole roll of film of the placenta spread out in the middle of my kitchen table. We still have the pictures, all 36 of them.

After the newborn exam, we had our birthday party. Our children opened up their big brother and big sister gifts, and presented the baby with the gifts they had selected for him. We had birthday cake, took some more pictures, made some phone calls and went to bed. The next day my children went to school with Polaroid snapshots of themselves holding their new baby brother. At a parent-teacher conference a few months later, my son’s kindergarten teacher commented about the birth, wondering if his description had been a tall tale or not. It was not every day that a five year old came into her classroom announcing, “Mommy had a baby in the sunroom last night.”

Our children still love to talk about that night, and our little baby Liam, who is now three years old, loves to look at the photos and hear the story of his birth. We hope that through the photos and the telling of Liam’s birth story, our children will have a good foundation when it comes time for them to have their own children.

A Mother’s Guidance: You have to seek out the people who think like you. If you don’t have friends or relatives who have experienced natural childbirth, you will need to be very proactive to get the information and support you need. Some general advice: shop or browse at your local health-food store. You are likely to run into other pregnant women there. Start conversations. Ask other customers or the staff for recommendations for a good midwife or prenatal massage therapist. Seek out the information and support you need. Go to prenatal yoga classes. Make sure your childbirth preparation class is really geared towards natural birth. (We were surprised to find that the most famous course was not!) Go anywhere that you may find childbearing people who think like you! A natural birth is the healthiest thing you can do for yourself and your baby. It is something that requires dedication, faith in yourself, and a heartfelt desire to stay in tune with nature.

I came across a book called The American Way of Birth by Jessica Mitford. It was a compelling, historical overview of how birth had changed over the years in our country. I was amazed by how nothing in modern obstetrics seemed to support a natural birth. Many people our own age told us how they had to have a C-section because there was fetal distress or the cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck, and thank God for the doctor. We wanted to say, “Well, lying on your back can decrease oxygen to the baby, and that will cause some distress….” But we bit our tongues, seeing how inappropriate it would be to tell someone what they should have done. In fact, it would have been just as inappropriate as what they were doing to us, sharing their horror stories!

Know in your heart and mind that you can have the type of birth you want. Remember that women have been giving birth for years and years. If painkillers and interventions were always necessary, humankind would not exist! I recommend the following publications: Mind over Labor by Carl Jones, Gentle Birth Choices by Barbara Harper, and Mothering magazine.

Additional Thoughts: If you are committed to attending a natural childbirth class, you may have to find one that is not associated with a hospital—an independent class. Hospital-affiliated educators are often not allowed to advocate for natural childbirth.

Gina Kennedy and her husband Rob live in Spring Lake, New Jersey, with their three children, Robbie, Erin and Liam. They run an indoor instructional basketball facility called Rebounds in Neptune, New Jersey. They spend summers in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, where they own a basketball camp that has been run by the Kennedy family for more than 40 years.

Looking for Guest Bloggers

November 4, 2008

I’m looking for guest bloggers and some positive birth stories.

Tomorrow I’ll be back with more postive birth stories.

You can also join me on Facebook. You can see my blog through the notes section in Facebook. Just link to Sheri Menelli.

A Birth Story by Catherine Amador-Locher

November 3, 2008

Excerpted from Sheri Menelli’s book Journey into Motherhood: Inspirational Stories of Natural Birth. For more stories go to https://smenelli.wordpress.com

In Her Own Time

By Catherine Amador-Locher

I only pushed twice before Lola shot into the world. After a long couple of weeks with less-than-enthusiastic contractions, my daughter suddenly decided she was in a hurry, and my active labor was quick. She didn’t come out slowly, like most babies: first the head and then the shoulders, and finally the tiny body. She came into the world all at once. It was as if she wasn’t going to let anything stop her. Not even her own cord could get in her way.

I gave birth to my first child, Jonathon, when I was in my early twenties. Throughout my first pregnancy I was scared and overwhelmed, but very excited. While Jonathon’s birth was one of the most intense and thrilling experiences of my life, laboring in the hospital was less than satisfactory. My doctor broke my water; they hooked me up to an internal fetal monitor, making it impossible for me to walk around. Fourteen hours and a routine episiotomy later, I delivered my son. Jonathon’s father cut the cord and then there he was—in my arms, my beautiful boy. I was thrilled with my new baby, but couldn’t help wondering if I’d missed out on something….

I hadn’t been emotionally comfortable in a hospital setting, and I knew there had to be a better way. Over the next few years I researched labor and delivery, reading every book I could get my hands on. I studied everything from routine hospital births to unassisted ocean births. It was when I began reading Mothering magazine that I decided to give birth at home with my next baby. I didn’t know at the time that it wouldn’t happen for another 16 years.

Jumping ahead to a new life and new marriage, I was 36 when I tried to conceive my second child. I was having ovulation problems, and had undergone fertility treatments for almost a year when my husband Jason and I decided we needed a break from the emotional roller coaster. We were both getting nervous about long-term consequences of the continuous Clomid doses, and we were both tired of being disappointed month after month. We took a breather to find our balance. We were happy raising Jonathon, and knew we were blessed even if another child wasn’t meant to be. We didn’t stop trying; we just stopped thinking about trying. Well, to be totally honest, I have to admit that I never really gave up thinking about getting pregnant; I just stopped obsessing over it and gave my emotions a break. It was nice to let go and get back to “us” for a while.

After about three months, we were mentally and emotionally prepared to begin treatments again. This time we would have my husband tested as well. I knew he was uncomfortable with the idea, but I also knew that having a baby was just as important to him as it was to me. He was willing to do whatever was needed to get some answers.

I don’t know if it was luck or relaxation… I like to believe it’s because we finally grounded ourselves, and that a precious little soul decided it was time. The day before Jason went to his doctor’s appointment, two lines on a home pregnancy test confirmed what we had barely dared to suspect—we were pregnant! We were thrilled with the news, and in shock that we actually did it. No drugs, no monitoring, just two people and a lot of love. I kept thanking the baby over and over for choosing us. I called everyone
I knew and announced that there was finally going to be a baby! Our dream was coming true.

Because of my research, we knew we wanted a home birth. I had worked in the local health food store the year before, and one of my best friends from there was able to guide us to a wonderful midwife, April. I couldn’t believe the difference it made to have her come to our home for my prenatal visits, as opposed to going to the doctor’s office. She took her time and would stay for a couple hours, talking with us about any concerns, hopes, dreams or fears we had. She gently poked and prodded my growing belly, checking both the baby and me. She carefully showed my husband and me just where our baby’s head, shoulders and butt were at each visit. After my appointments I would feel radiant with confidence that both the baby and I were doing well. I fully trusted my midwife’s assessments.

In contrast, the doctor I was seeing at the same time would come into the exam room, listen to baby’s heart, check my blood pressure and tell me he’d see me again in a few weeks. The whole thing would last ten minutes, at most. I was never reassured or comfortable. We were only seeing him because of my age, and we wanted to get the appropriate tests to make sure everything was going OK. It was a huge waste of our time.

Everyone has their own comfort levels, and every decision is personal and should be honored; but for us it was such a relief to finally separate ourselves from the doctor and rely solely on my midwife and her wisdom. My family and I formed a very close friendship with her, and we trusted her explicitly. She became family. I realized that we were in the best of hands and that it was OK to let go of my age-related concerns. I had a great pregnancy, and it was only the last couple of weeks that I felt uncomfortable.

Every day throughout the last few weeks, I experienced contractions off and on, some Braxton-Hicks and some more painful contractions, but nothing that was leading into true labor. After a night of being sure it was time, only to have the contractions stop at
four centimeters dilation, I was getting really frustrated. Despite all the time it took to get pregnant, these last couple of weeks seemed the longest part of our journey. I knew this was normal, but I didn’t care; I was sure I was the most pregnant woman ever… and I ­wasn’t even past my due date yet! I was ready to see my baby.

We had decided on a water birth, so the birthing tub sat in our home, empty, waiting. My mom and sister had flown in to support us through the birth, and April was standing by offering words of encouragement and patience, but Lola wasn’t quite ready for her debut. My poor husband never knew if he should stay home from work or not. I was trying to be patient and to have faith in my body, but some days were harder than others.

The day after my due date, April came over to conduct a blessing ceremony and foot wash with me. The ceremony was simple; she shared a few words of blessings and washed my feet, thanking me for allowing her to participate in this sacred event and assuring me she would be there to help guide my baby into the world. It was very moving, and when she proceeded to dry my feet with her long hair, my tears started to flow. The love I was receiving from her and everyone else in the room pulled me into such a serene space, at peace with my body and our baby. I was able to let go of any impatience and discomfort, and finally find balance. I released any concept of a due date and decided to enjoy the last few days I’d have my daughter all to myself. So with this new attitude in place, I didn’t think much about it when the contractions started again—I was certain it was more false labor.

It was March 23rd, two days past my due date, and the Academy Awards were on. We had just sat down with some burritos when I started to feel crampy again. Peter O’Toole was awarded an honorary Oscar. My mom told us that the night she and my dad saw his Academy Award winning performance in Lawrence of Arabia was the night she’d gone into labor with me. She said maybe it was a good sign. We all laughed and carried on with the evening as usual. I didn’t say anything about the cramps
I was having; they were like the others I’d had all week, so I didn’t want to get everyone excited. At about 11:00 p.m. we decided to go to bed.

My husband immediately fell asleep, but I wasn’t feeling too great. I got up to use the bathroom, sure that the burritos were the cause of my discomfort. The cramps were getting stronger, so I decided to take a shower and try to relax. I let the hot water massage my lower back, knowing that if it was false labor the water would relax me enough to slow down the contractions. It felt good, and afterwards I laid down again but the cramps kept coming.

I still wouldn’t allow myself to believe this was it, so I got up and took another shower. While the water once again felt good, it wasn’t helping the discomfort as much as the first shower had. I started to get more excited. I lay down again and felt a definite change with the next contraction… it took my breath away! I reached out and squeezed Jason’s arm, unable to talk through the pain. Realizing what was happening, he got up and helped me walk through the next several contractions. He was my rock and my balance. I would wrap my arms around his neck and he would hold me up, gently stroking my back. Finally I told him we should call the midwife. By now it was almost 1:00 a.m.

While I woke up my mom and sister to tell them that April was on her way, Jason began filling the tub. Everyone was excited. The contractions were coming every 30 seconds, and getting stronger. My midwife arrived about 1:45 a.m. and checked me. I was dilated to five centimeters and fully effaced! Yay!

I was given the go ahead to get into the tub… I practically ran to it. It felt incredible to sink down into that warm water. I had been moaning throughout my contractions, and now April reminded me to visualize my cervix opening up. As my “oh’s” became a chant of “open… open…” I began thinking how relatively calm I was still feeling. I never “checked out” or got at all dreamy with my contractions. I was handling them vocally, even singing through a couple of them. I’m not saying it didn’t hurt, because it did! But they were not overwhelming me.

I was thankful to be in the water, as it was helping me handle the contractions. I was feeling very balanced, and I waited for the desperate feeling of the transition stage to hit. Since it hadn’t come yet, I figured I still had a lot of time before baby was ready to make her entrance. Almost immediately after this thought, my contractions became more demanding… within seconds I was feeling the urge to push. The time was 2:35 a.m.; I’d been in the tub for about half an hour. I asked my mom to go wake up my son so he could be present. I was happy that she and my sister could be there with us, and I was feeling so much love for everyone in the room.

The pressure was building and I told my midwife that I ­couldn’t hold back, so she checked me and said that any time I was ready I could go ahead and bear down. But I already was! My body was working just like it should. My midwife saw my unbroken bag of waters bulging and said that Lola’s head was right there too. The only thing going through my mind right then was that I had to get this baby out. So with my next push, I gave it all I had. I felt the rush of water as my bag broke and said, “Here comes the water!” At the same time, April swooped Lola up out of the tub and said, “No, here is your baby!” She came out all at once, like a bullet. The time was 2:37. The membrane from the water sac was still covering her body; she was born en caul.

Jason had been saying throughout our pregnancy that she would be born in her bag of water, and he was right! I looked down and saw her big eyes looking around from inside the sac, and noticed a bubble around her nose and mouth. The midwife pulled the membrane away from her face and there was my beautiful little girl, just looking up at me. She was breathing fine and already turning pink. I looked up at my husband and saw his face covered in tears. A feeling of serenity filled me. She was finally here, and she was perfect.

I was marveling at the beauty of my new daughter, oblivious to what was going on around me, when suddenly the midwife asked, “Where’s your cord?” I laughed and said I didn’t know, but then I saw real concern on her face. About four inches of umbilical cord was hanging from my daughter, and the other end was coming out of me. The tub had a lot of blood in the water. Apparently our new daughter was in such a hurry to get out that she broke her own cord! April immediately clamped Lola’s end and said I needed to get out of the tub. I asked her if Lola was OK and she reassured me that the baby was perfect; it was me she was concerned about. I felt very calm and allowed myself to be guided to the bedroom. There was no way to be sure that all the blood was from the cord, and she wanted to get me in bed to check for tears and hemorrhaging. She also wanted to get the placenta out to make sure it hadn’t pulled away from my uterus when the cord broke.

Once they got me settled the midwife clamped the cord and went to work, checking my yoni for tears and making sure I wasn’t losing any more blood. I had the smallest of nicks and we delivered a healthy placenta within 15 minutes. She concluded that the blood had in fact come from the pulsating cord and that I was in perfect health. When she measured the cord, adding the few inches from Lola’s end of it, she figured it to be around 16-18 inches in length. Although she didn’t talk to me about it at the time, she thought that if it had been extremely short, that would explain why it had snapped. Since it wasn’t too short, she could only guess at what caused it to break. She was just thankful that it didn’t pull off from Lola’s navel, or snap before she was through the birth canal, thereby cutting off her oxygen supply. In 20 years as a midwife, she had never had anything like this happen. I’m sure we caused her a few new gray hairs that night!

Through all of this I was feeling great and kept reassuring everyone that I was fine. I even exclaimed, “Let’s do this again!” causing everyone in the room to laugh. (The next day she asked me if I remembered saying that, and if I really wanted to go through it again. I told her, of course! She said that is usually not one of the first things she hears from a mom who’s just gone through labor, and she laughed again.) The adrenaline was surging through my system. I was thrilled with our gorgeous girl, and very happy that we were able to realize our dream of delivering at home, in water. I was so thankful that we were both healthy and happy. Most of all I was grateful that we had decided to trust our midwife so much. If we had given birth in the hospital, I’m sure labor would have lasted longer, and upon discovering the broken cord they would have taken Lola away while they assessed the situation. As it was, Lola never left my arms and no one panicked. April handled it with a wonderful calmness that kept everyone at ease. We will be forever grateful to her for being there with us and guiding our daughter into the world with such love and peace.

Lola weighed in at a healthy seven pounds, eight ounces, and was very alert. She knew exactly what to do when I put her on my breast, and she ate with gusto. We all felt very blessed that early morning. After a couple hours, April went home to research anything she could find on umbilical cords breaking at birth. She heard from one midwife who said she’d experienced something similar several years before, but no one else had ever gone thorough something quite like this. Thankfully there were no ramifications from it.

The balance I achieved right before giving birth is still strong, and I love every minute of being a new mom again. Lola and I went through an incredible journey together, but it was only the beginning. I love watching her learn and feeling her love. Her smiles light up a room and I realize once again that the most important things in the world are right there in that smile. Even with all this goodness, I can’t help but wonder if the details of her birth are mere hints to what we have in store as she gets older. How many cords will she snap on the road to growing up? How much symbolic blood will I lose as I guide her to adulthood? No matter what, I’m going to be there, patiently helping her through each process, experiencing all her joys as well as her sorrows, and learning some valuable lessons on staying balanced along the way.

hA Mother’s Guidance: My strongest advice for an expectant mom is to make sure that she is completely comfortable with her surroundings, and to maintain control of
her environment. Sometimes hospital personnel or family members can be intimidating, but I believe that if the mother (or her primary support person) remains in charge of the situation, it will help her relax more during labor.

Fear is probably the biggest barrier to overcome in labor. It can be especially difficult with first babies, because you don’t really know what to expect. You can read everything, but until you go through it you never really know. But trust your body. During Lola’s birth I was very aware that my body was working the way it was supposed to. I would whisper to my belly, “It’s OK Lola, we are doing this together.”

Finally, make sure you have 100% trust in whoever you have chosen to be with you in the birthing room. This includes any and all doctors, family members and friends. If you don’t like your doctor while you are pregnant, it will be that much more difficult to deliver. A woman has every right to change practitioners, and should never be made to feel guilty or intimidated into staying with someone she doesn’t completely trust. The same goes for family and friends who want to be with her. If she just wants her partner, then she needs to be able to say that. My sister just had her first baby, and during labor she had her husband’s entire family in the labor room with them. She wasn’t progressing, and she finally looked around and realized that she couldn’t relax because of everyone in the room. So they kicked everyone out, and an hour later had a beautiful little boy. I was comfortable having my mother, sister and son with us, but I had also set down some guidelines on what my needs were and how each one could help them be met. It was a wonderful and empowering experience.

I did not take any classes to prepare for this birth. Although I learned Lamaze techniques before my son’s birth, I found that the breathing wasn’t really helpful for me. With my second pregnancy I did a lot of meditation, and found Robert Bradley’s book Husband Coached Childbirth to be very helpful. The relaxation techniques were great; I especially liked the suggestion that if you relax your
face, the rest of you will follow. I also read Birthing from Within by Pam England and Rob Horowitz, and The Birth Book by William and Martha Sears. I would highly recommend both of these books. Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin was also a very good resource for me.

I also stayed active during my pregnancy. The last month I was still swimming three times a week with my husband on his lunch breaks.

My midwife taught me that by opening my mouth and chanting or moaning, I would help my cervix open. During the last phase, when the contractions were almost on top of each other, I would focus on a picture we have hanging on the wall and chant, “Open, open…” while imagining my cervix opening up. That was the biggest help of all in handling the pain.

Additional Thoughts: The blessing ceremony, which
has gained tremendous popularity, is a non-de­nom­inational tradition that nurtures, honors and celebrates a woman’s transition into motherhood as a rite of passage. Friends and family come together to give love, wisdom and support that will empower the mother to face the labor and birth ahead. It is a positive and powerful ritual, and sets the tone for a wonderful birth experience.

Another great tool that Catherine used is a warm shower. Warm water on the breasts and stomach can really get labor going, as well as relax the mom. Visualizing the cervix opening is also very helpful, and the image of rose or lotus flower opening is often used. Visualizing the opening of the hips, as well as the cervix, can also help labor progress, as tension and fear tends to accumulate in that area.

It is rare for a baby to be born “en caul,” meaning in the amniotic sac. In some cultures, a baby born this way is believed to have psychic gifts.

Catherine Amador-Locher is a stay-at-home mom who loves art, writing, music and her family. She is currently studying to become a certified doula. Her husband Jason is an architectural draftsman at a small architectural firm that designs custom homes. Both Jason and Catherine attended Humboldt State University in Arcata, California. They currently live in Kailua Kona, Hawaii, with their son Jonathon, daughter Lola, dog Rita, and their two cats, Elvis and Alobar.

More natural birth stories

October 31, 2008

Excerpted from Journey into Motherhood:

Inspirational Stories of Natural Birth by Sheri Menelli

From Denial to Ecstasy

By Michele Zeck

You could set a clock by my menstrual cycle. But when I was four days late, I focused on all of the physical signs indicating my period was on the way. I bought an Early Pregnancy Test on my way to work, just to put my mind to rest—I knew I was not pregnant.

I went to the restroom the second I arrived. That stick couldn’t have turned positive any quicker than it did… I was horrified! At 32, I had just gotten engaged to Rich, and did not want kids at all. In a state of shock and hysteria, I tried to tell a couple of my co-workers. I was incoherent, carrying on and pointing to the stick, so distraught that I had to leave work. I headed straight to Rich to tell him the news. I could not have asked for a more sympathetic man as I sat in his office blubbering about the situation.

That night we talked over our options. Do we keep the baby or do we give the baby up for adoption? I cried and prayed until I finally fell asleep that night. The next day I had an overwhelming feeling of peace about the pregnancy. It was a go. We accepted our unexpected gift.

As we talked about the kind of birth we wanted—a hospital or home birth—I made it clear that I am against any kind of pain
medication or anything that interferes with the natural birthing process. I don’t understand why people would take care of themselves during their pregnancy but allow drugs to enter their body, and the baby’s, during labor. Our bodies are made for birthing. Labor pain won’t last forever, and there is such a bright light at the end of the tunnel. Although it can seem unbearable at times, I see labor as such a small window of time compared to the bigger picture of growing and birthing a child.

We were aware of the problems that could arise if we chose a hospital birth, but I didn’t know anyone who had given birth at home. We talked with friends about our dilemma, and they knew of a midwife who had been in practice for over 20 years and delivered over 1,000 babies. Encouraged by this sign, we contacted her to set up an interview. She answered all of our questions and talked with us about our philosophy on birthing. She advised us to not make a decision right away, to think about our conversation for a week or so.

We figured it would be smart to talk with my Ob/Gyn about home birth. So we made an appointment, but before we could see the doctor we had to fill out a stack of paperwork. Oh, brother! Then the nurse proceeded to go through her routine, or as I call it, “pushing us through like a herd of cows.” She gave us the “pregnant packet” full of propaganda, which annoyed Rich and I to no end. We just wanted to TALK to the doctor, that’s it. Finally, we were led to an examination room and I was told to get into a gown. I said, “I’m sorry, but I’m here strictly to talk to the doctor. No examination is going to take place.” Thank goodness Rich was there, or I wouldn’t have felt brave enough to stand up for what I believed should happen during that visit.

My doctor, a woman I really liked and had been to for five years, came in a few minutes later. We talked about the possibility of working with a midwife and having a home birth. While she was open to a midwife, she objected to a home birth because of the fact I had herpes. (Herpes can be passed from mother to baby during birth, but only if the mother is experiencing a breakout.) I was so
grateful that I had already discussed this with my midwife. She had put my concerns to rest right away, educating me on foods and immune-boosting supplements that would suppress breakouts. She had safely delivered many babies with moms who had herpes. To hear my doctor try to scare me with the herpes angle did not make me happy. She said she respected our feelings about whether or not to vaccinate our baby, and other choices we wanted to make, which made me feel better. However, she couldn’t guarantee she would be on call when I went into labor, and she warned me that the other delivery doctors wouldn’t be as open-minded. That was all I needed to hear. I wasn’t going to give birth under such uncertain circumstances.

After we were done with the question-and-answer session the doctor said, “I see you didn’t want an exam.” I confirmed that we were just there to talk, so the office charged us for a consultation, which our insurance does not cover. That was the cherry on top of the whole unpleasant experience.

The next day we called the midwife, Yolanda, and told her we were ready to work with her. We met the following week to fill out some paperwork and exchange expectations, and just to talk. She told us that she did not conduct vaginal exams until the home visit, which is two weeks before your due date. She had a 0% infection rate. She does not offer any drugs for pain and will only do episiotomies if absolutely necessary. During the birth she uses oil and massage to help stretch the perineum and make it more elastic. Yolanda also advised me to use ginger for morning sickness… those ginger tablets were my best friends for months. Peppermint oil was also helpful for my tummy. Our next appointment was in two months, which would put me at 13 weeks along.

Our first real appointment with a midwife was astonishing. The wealth of information she had blew me away. My husband has children from a previous marriage and even he was flabbergasted. He told her that no doctor had ever taken the time to include him in the prenatal discussions, or teach him how to help prepare a woman’s body for the birthing process.

In my second trimester I was feeling so much better, now that the nausea had left. But that is also when the fear set in… I was so scared of the pain of labor. Some days that’s all I thought about, and I knew I had to take control of my mindset. I told Yolanda about my low tolerance for pain, and asked what I could do to cope with my fears. She encouraged me to read Birthing from Within by Pam England and Rob Horowitz, an excellent book. It was key to helping me manage the pain issue, but also so much more. It is perfect for women planning a home birth, or a hospital birth.

I needed to hear the baby’s heartbeat, and we finally did for the first time at about the 17th week. Until that day, a part of me was still in denial about being pregnant. I didn’t want to get my hopes up in case something went wrong during my first trimester. Once I heard that little heart beat I was overwhelmed with happiness. I really was pregnant! There really was a little person growing inside me. The reality of having a baby finally set in.

The more I read my book, Birthing from Within, the more thrilled I was and the more confident I became that I could have a perfectly wonderful home birth. Birthing at home can be a very daunting thing for most people. My mom and friends resisted the idea at first. All I heard was, “What if, what if, what if… hospitals are safer and better equipped to handle emergencies….” I told them to educate themselves about home births and hospital births
before making a judgment call. As I shared more and more information with them, they gradually opened up to the idea.

Two weeks before my due date, our midwife came for a home visit. She examined me and confirmed that all was well with the baby and me. She checked our birthing supplies to make sure we had everything we would need. Rich and I were so ready to have a baby… we were just waiting for the baby to be ready to join us.

And then, the day came. It was about 3 a.m. when I started feeling uncomfortable so I went downstairs to lay on the couch. By 4 a.m. I was sitting at the table, reading a chart in a book, trying to determine if those sensations were fake contractions or true contractions. I honestly didn’t know. According to the book, I was having some of each. I timed them, but there was no consistency. By 5 a.m. I knew they were true contractions, coming about one minute apart. An hour later I yelled upstairs, telling my husband to call our midwife.

I lay over the side of the bed, breathing and talking to Yolanda. She asked me questions, trying to discern if I was in true labor. She was just finishing up with another birth and was about 30 minutes away, but said she was on her way. Rich called my mom to tell her I was in labor and asked her to pray for us.

Yolanda arrived at the house at 7:30 a.m., bringing with her an energy of calmness. I was safe and at peace with her there. I felt the safest in our bedroom, so that is where we stayed (along with our dog and cat). I can’t remember much of what she said to me but I remember that Yolanda’s voice was very soothing. Rich was at my side the whole time. Whether I was in the bathtub or on the toilet wanting to throw up, he was there. He was my rock.

My midwife would not let me stay in any one position for too long. She believes that different birthing positions encourage the baby to move into the birth canal. She was right. By 8:30 a.m. I was dilated to eight centimeters. My water still had not broken; it never really did, it just leaked a little at a time. By 10 a.m. I was fully dilated and ready to push. My husband was a great coach, and I
clung to him like never before. I needed him, and he came through like a knight in shining armor!

Yolanda listened to the baby’s heartbeat one more time before I started pushing. Believe it or not, I asked her if she could tell what sex the baby was by the heartbeat, and she said yes.

With each contraction I pushed deeply… I wanted the baby out and I wanted it out now! For the first 20 minutes of pushing I was on the bed, and then I moved to a birthing stool. That was perfect. As our baby was crowning, she told me she could see the baby’s head and that it had lots of hair. She lowered a mirror so I could see, and then I put my hand down to feel the hair. How incredible that moment was! To feel part of the baby before it entered this world was just magical. Yolanda gave me specific instructions, telling me to stop pushing. She was preparing the baby’s opening with oil, massaging it to stretch with the baby so there would be no tearing. I started pushing again, but had to stop—as much as I didn’t want to, I knew what the consequences would be if I didn’t. With one final push, the baby emerged face up. Yolanda told me to grab my baby girl and pull her out. What a glorious experience, to pull your child out of your body and welcome her into the world!

Shea Kiley lay on my chest with the cord still attached for 10
or 15 minutes before Rich cut it. I was helped up onto the bed and started nursing my precious angel. God was good to me. Every­thing went exactly the way it should have—perfect.

A Mother’s Guidance: Having a home birth with a midwife was my key to a great birth. Birthing is difficult, that’s just reality, but to give birth in the comfort of your home can make it an awesome experience. Choose a midwife who explains everything to you and lets you know how your pregnancy and labor are progressing. She will reassure you that you are doing a great job, and you won’t be stuck in bed or have monitors hooked up to you. (That idea scared me, and felt like we would be anticipating problems.) What a story you get to share with your child—that they were born in their home!

Additional Thoughts: One of the most important things you can do at the beginning of your pregnancy is to carefully interview doctors or midwives. If you do not feel comfortable with them at the beginning of your pregnancy, you probably won’t feel any different when you are giving birth. You can find a great list of interviewing questions in the appendix of this book.

Michele Zeck is a stay-at-home mom to one daughter. Her husband Rich has managed a chiropractor’s office for the last four years.

To purchase Journey into Motherhood (48 more birth stoires), contact Sheri Menelli at 760-930-0913.

A Birth Story by Susan McClutchey

October 30, 2008

Cherishing Every Sensation

By Susan McClutchey

From the moment David and I dis­covered our pregnancy, we were awash in blissful excitement… tainted only by my fear of childbirth. After a lifetime of hearing birth horror stories, I was worried about how I would handle it. But at the same time, I didn’t understand why it should hurt. After all, pain is usually a way for our bodies to tell us something is wrong, yet pregnancy is a natural and healthy process. If Mother Nature provided us with only one way to (naturally) complete a preg­nancy, why would She make that one method painful?

With that question in mind, I began earnestly researching childbirth… and I soon found answers. The more I read, the more I realized that childbirth is not inherently painful. It is, however, extremely intense and can be overwhelming without proper preparation and support through labor. When a woman is unprepared for that intensity, she is likely to tense up and resist the process, which leads to pain.

Armed with a new understanding of childbirth, I found a course called HypnoBirthing that taught relaxation through self-hypnosis. My husband and I enjoyed the classes, but when they were over we still felt unprepared. Fortunately, we found supplemental resources on http://www.hypnobabies.com. Armed with these wonderful techniques, we settled confidently into a routine of practicing our relaxation, and waited for the big day with eager anticipation instead of fear.

We didn’t have long to wait! Four days before our due date, our sweet little man came into the world and completely stole
our hearts.

I first began to suspect that labor was close when I noticed a little bloody show late one Friday night. The show was still present the next morning, and I was having easy little surges (that’s hypno-speak for contractions) every seven to ten minutes for the first several hours after I awoke. I was so excited to know labor was starting, but I tried to remain calm, knowing it could take awhile.

I wandered downstairs, had some breakfast and made brownies for the labor-and-delivery staff. By 9:30 a.m. the surges were four to five minutes apart, but still gentle. I knew I wasn’t making dramatic progress, so I just napped and relaxed, enjoying time with my husband.

When the surges intensified, David called our doula and she joined us by noon. We were all happy and a little giggly with excitement. In the midst of our mirth, David pulled out the video camera to get some funny footage of me struggling to put socks on feet I hadn’t seen in months. He turned the camera on our doula and asked her to tell the audience who she was and why she was there. Her dazed response: “Dude, I don’t know anything about babies… I just brought the pizza!” The jovial atmosphere helped to keep me relaxed, despite my excitement, and for the next few hours we just hung out, chatting and laughing, while I used the birthing ball and listened to my relaxation tapes.

To this point, I had been concentrating on staying relaxed and visualizing my cervix opening easily. In the beginning, I worked on using deep, relaxing breathing, but soon it just became second nature. I spent quite a lot of time on my birth ball (which was really a large exercise ball). When I felt a surge beginning, I would place my hands palm-up on my knees and try to release all tension from them. I found that if I kept my hands loose and free of tension, I would automatically relax my shoulders, and the rest of my body followed the trend. After doing this a few times I could feel a tingling sensation in my fingers, and would picture all the tension in my body flowing out of my fingertips. It wasn’t something that I practiced prior to labor, I just found myself doing it.

We continued to relax and joke and have a wonderful time while we waited for me to feel that I was making progress. My surges grew more frequent, about two to three minutes apart, and lasted well over a minute, sometimes peaking twice. The double peaks concerned my doula, making her wonder if the baby might be posterior. But thanks to my relaxation, the surges were still comfortable, despite the fact I was experiencing back labor. I knew I wasn’t very dilated, but with my strange pattern of surges and the fact that they were well under five minutes apart, I decided to go to the hospital and make sure that the baby was well. When I felt ready, I had a light snack and we headed to the hospital, elated with the prospect of finally meeting our first-born child and finding out if we would have a son or a daughter!

When we arrived at the hospital, we found that we had a full moon working against us. With occupants in every Labor-and-Delivery room, we found ourselves sequestered in a tiny triage cubicle. Monitoring confirmed the healthy, happy state of the baby, but despite strong and frequent surges, I had only dilated three centimeters. My bag of waters was protruding down the birth canal and was so taut that the baby couldn’t make any downward progress. This was the reason my dilation stalled at three centi­meters, and it was causing the back labor. The bag of waters had the baby pressed against my spine, unable to descend. This awkward situation caused a lot of pressure on my urethra, which inhibited urination, but the relaxation techniques kept me from agony. Using self-hypnosis, I was able to relax and stay comfortable.

We tried walking around to see if we could encourage my membranes to rupture. Occasionally we would have to stop so I could lean on the wall while the doula and David pushed on my hips during surges (what relief!), but the nurses kept coming over and trying to have conversations with me while I was con­cen­trating. This was so distracting that we decided to forgo the benefits of walking and head back to triage.

It sounds weird, but while I didn’t actually feel any pain, I was well aware of its existence. It seemed like my relaxation acted as a wall between me and the painful sensations that some women
experience during childbirth. If anything started to shake my concentration, I would feel a dark shadow looming over me, and I worried that it was the pain about to come crashing over me like a huge wave. Luckily, that thought always made me come up with another way to relax, and the shadow never reached me.

While in the triage area, we heard three women deliver in cubicles around us, but I was determined to hold out for a room! So we just continued the relaxation, concentrated on visualizations of my cervix softening and expanding, and endured the holding pattern. David rubbed my back and shoulders when I needed it and I continued listening to relaxation tapes. By this time my surges were continuous, with no down time in between, and I knew I wasn’t progressing. But David and our doula kept me calm and comfortable, and took turns pestering the staff for a room.

I continued using the birthing ball and taking walks to the bathroom. I guess I was being overly optimistic by going to the restroom all the time—I still couldn’t urinate. Eventually I reached the point where I needed to remain on my side with my eyes closed to stay relaxed. I hadn’t had a break between surges in a few hours, and it took all my concentration to stay calm. At some level I knew that I had every right to be frustrated by not having a room, but I just kept telling myself that I would be holding my baby very soon, so a few hours didn’t really matter. I found myself thinking about getting angry, then realizing the harm it would do, and consciously deciding to be patient.

Finally, around 10 p.m. we got a birthing room! Once we were settled in and had the lights turned down to a comfortable level, I knew my body needed my water to break in order to progress.

I discussed the situation with my doctor and we decided to intervene. It was the right thing to do, according to what my body was telling me. She broke my water just after 11:00 p.m. I remember being surprised by how warm the liquid felt when it came out, and somehow that warmth helped me relax even further. I was dilated to five centimeters, but after my water was broken I actually regressed to four centimeters. Again, I had the fleeting thought that I should be frustrated by my lack of progress, but decided such thoughts were not helpful and remained patient.

Having my water broken was a huge relief to my body, and I was lucky to experience a rest period when my surges were only occurring every five to seven minutes. I took that time to go into deeper relaxation, and I napped. With the membranes having released, the baby could finally move down. The pressure on my cervix really got things moving. When I awoke, I was in transition and things became more intense. I was having trouble staying calm, but David and the doula were miracle workers. They helped me regain control by telling me how well I was handling the surges, and reminding me that I was not going to experience anything more difficult than what I had already handled. (They also kicked out the rude anesthesiologist, who laughed at us when we declined an epidural and said to let him know when we needed him.)

By 12:30 a.m. I was dilated eight or nine centimeters. Only a few minutes later, I began feeling my body push with the surges and asked for the doctor. When she arrived, she confirmed that I was completely dilated and told me to push when I was ready. I was relieved to hear that—my body had already begun pushing without my consent!

When I shifted from my side into a sitting/reclined position, the surges stopped almost completely. I was in absolutely no discomfort and felt no surges, but since so many people were standing there watching me expectantly, I still put on a show of pushing from time to time. I felt like a stage actress who made a grand entrance in front of a full house and promptly forgot all her lines! Everyone was so fixated on me, and absolutely nothing was happening! It sounds silly now, but I was so embarrassed about not having any surges after asking for the doctor. I tried to discreetly use the technique of breathing the baby down when I
wasn’t actively pushing. Despite my being ridiculous and trying to do it without anyone noticing, it worked! The baby was nearly crowning, but I wasn’t working with my body anymore. I was annoyed that I had to do all the work, since I wasn’t having surges to help things along. I finally asked to roll onto my side again, and instantly relaxed into a wonderful surge that brought the baby to crowning without any work on my part.

I rolled right back and started pushing with gusto. I loved this stage! Prior to the birth, I had done perineal massage while using relaxation techniques, and visualized crushed ice coming down before the baby’s head, cooling and soothing everything before it stretched around him. As a result, the pushing felt
wonderful and the smooth warmth of my son’s face and body emerging from me felt like a massaging caress. I could feel every magical little detail of him as he moved through and out of me. I marveled at the sweet warmth of his skin against my birth canal and cherished every sensation. It seemed as though the entire world came to an expectant halt and nothing existed except those of us in the room. Everyone responded to the sacred but joyful feel of those moments by using hushed tones to give me quiet encouragement and exclaim over the beauty of the event.

Our beautiful son Luke emerged peacefully into the dimly lit room and was passed immediately into my hands, where he lay while my husband checked to see his gender. The cord was very short, so he stayed on my stomach for several minutes until it stopped pulsating and we cut it. His brow was furrowed as he peered back and forth from my face to David’s with a look of both concern and interest. He had no interest in anyone else in the room, and the three of us just gazed at each other in awe as David and I told him how happy we were to meet him. From that moment we were so utterly in love with him that we could barely breathe as the weight of that devotion settled into our hearts. I will never forget the feeling of his warm little body in my hands and my surprise at how clean and soft he felt. I had braced myself for him to be slimy and bloody, but he was soft and clean and perfect.

Despite 19 hours of labor, I felt ready to run a marathon. Before I even delivered the placenta, I told David that I was looking forward to giving birth again—our doctor nearly fell over with shock! Both my doctor and doula said they had never seen a more serene and beautiful birth. Nurses from throughout the ward came by to discuss the hypnosis techniques we used. Apparently we were the talk of Labor & Delivery all weekend, and I like to think that hypnosis for birthing will be taken more seriously there in the future.

I had no soreness or aching whatsoever after the birth, never needing so much as an aspirin. I loved my pregnancy, but the joy of those 40 weeks pales in comparison to the exhilaration of Luke’s birth!

A Mother’s Guidance: We worked hard to create a wonderful birth experience. The HypnoBirthing classes, supplemented by tapes from the Hypnobabies website, were invaluable tools for us. Since our first pregnancy, we have made it our mission to let the pregnant women we meet know that they have options—that birth doesn’t have to be a painful, drugged and medically-controlled experience. We are currently expecting our second child and are using the Hypnobabies course exclusively this time.

Additional Thoughts: It really is possible—a pain-free labor with an orgasmic pushing stage. Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin can provide additional information on releasing the fear of pushing.

Susan McClutchey is a chemical engineer and her husband is currently a stay-at-home father. He also acts and does development work for local theaters and charity organizations.

Excerpted from Journey into Motherhood: Inspirational Stories of Natural Birth by Sheri Menelli

Inspiration for Vaginal Births after C-section

October 29, 2008

I just found a really great blog that i had to share.

This blog has positive birth stories and great information. Great especially if you need to be inspired for an upcoming vaginal birth after c-section (VBAC)