Posts Tagged ‘waterbirth’

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

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.


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

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.