I am so excited to share Holly's second birth story. I was really lucky to be able to pop in soon after Alexis was born to pick up Holly's placenta for encapsulation and saw what a wonderfully serene scene the immediate post partum was for this family. I witnessed them all curled up together in their living room with the soft light of the Christmas tree illuminating. SO beautiful!
Enjoy another beautiful birth story:
I am overjoyed to post that our daughter Alexis Erin was born a week ago today; December 6th, 2013, right on my due date!
It all began in the morning around 7:00am. Brandon was nursing and I started to feel some mild contractions. I waited until he was finished to see if they continued, and they did. I texted Mike and told him I was feeling them but to not rush home from work just yet. In the meantime I contacted our midwife Erin as well as our birth photographer Jaydene to give them the heads up. I took a shower and did my hair and makeup, assuming that I’d be photographed that day and I didn’t want to look like crap! Maybe a little vain, but it is what it is! By about 8:30 my contractions were coming about every 4 minutes regularly so I texted Mike again and told him he’d better come home. I kept Erin and Jaydene in the loop about my progress and they both made their way over to our home around the same time. Erin arrived around 11:30, and Jaydene around 12:30. Erin took some time to get all her homebirth supplies set up, and just after noon she checked my cervix, and I was about 4cm dilated. Both Erin and Jaydene decided to leave for a short time to get some lunch, but it wasn’t long before I texted Jaydene and told her she’d better return soon because my labour was beginning to get hard. I had decided that I didn’t really want Brandon there for the birth because I thought I might get distracted and I was worried he might get scared by the noises I would surely make! Mike texted Marcy not long before 1:00, and by 1:30 he was out of the house and off to Play Abby. It turned out to be perfect timing because as soon as he left I really got into the zone of active labour. At some point, the back-up midwife Jules had arrived as well. At around 2:00 I decided I wanted to try getting into the pool. Mike had just finished filling it up and it was nice and warm. I got in, and it felt really nice! I had been feeling the contractions mostly in my back so the water helped a lot. I had a few more contractions in the water, squeezing Mike’s hands. I was aware of the midwives talking to each other, saying that the baby must be coming down based on my noise! At one point Erin told me to reach down and feel her head. Obviously I had felt that she was starting to emerge and it was very cool to feel her. My body really took over when it came to pushing her out; it was really uncontrollable and I tried to focus on relaxing and letting my body do the work rather than consciously pushing her out. It all happened so fast; within 4 minutes she was out! I pushed for about an hour with Brandon so this time was quite a bit quicker. I pulled her up to my chest myself and was just over the moon! We sat there and snuggled for a few minutes, and I got an injection to help my uterus clamp down and get the placenta out. After a short time I got out of the pool and moved to the couch with Alexis. Soon after, the placenta was delivered and it was set aside to be encapsulated. Alexis and I cuddled under some warm blankets and very quickly she helped herself to some milk :) She latched on beautifully with no help from me, and stayed there for probably 45mins to an hour. After we’d had that time together, she was weighed and measured; she was heavier than Brandon at 7lbs, 8oz, and was 20″ long. We both had our vitals taken and all was good. Erin cleaned up all the supplies, the pool was emptied and deflated, laundry went in the wash and before I knew it, the living room was back to normal and you never would have known a baby had just been born! Erin left about two hours after Alexis was born, and Jaydene stuck around until Brandon got home so she could get a few shots of him meeting his little sister.
I was able to have a Facetime chat with Erin and Marc just minutes before they had to leave for the airport to come back to Canada, so that was good timing! I talked to my parents as well, and Mike called his at some point. There was a lot of texting going on as well!
I am so happy with how my labour and delivery went! Obviously I wanted to have another successful homebirth, and am happy I got to experience a water birth as well. I felt much more “with it” this time too. With Brandon, once I was in active labour I barely said a word to Mike, but this time I was still talking and smiling in between my contractions! I felt really good after she was born, and now at a week post-partum I feel great, just tired. After Brandon was born it took me about this long to feel like I had my strength and appetite back. My placenta pills were ready for me Sunday evening so I started taking them Monday morning…that could be part of the reason why I’m feeling so well, have lots of breastmilk, and am coping better with the sleep deprivation.
Jo is now 9 months old, and though I have been meaning to sit down and type this out for a long time, it feels sort of fitting to post it now that she's been in our arms as long as she was in my belly. It's been quite emotional looking back on my writing. It's a bit scattered as I was trying to get every detail I could remember down on paper, and trying to capture the emotion and feeling involved as well.
I've been thinking a lot about birth stories lately, and challenged myself and others in a recent post to share and elaborate on them. Parents need to hear them. Parents need to read them. I think the best way for me to do this is to share it almost as it is written in my journal (plus a bit of colour commentary!). I had plans of polishing it up, but I know that if I do some of its magic will be lost to the effort of prose and grammar. So, be prepared for a mix of point form and run on, and some ecstatically sleep deprived language. My intention is to give the reader a raw view.
Without further ado, here is the story of Jo Loretta Strange's birth:
May 17, 2013--8 days after the birth of sweet Jo, who now sleeps in my lap as I begin to write.
I feel like it may take me a bit of time to write Jo's birth story because I really want to do it justice. It may require sitting down at the computer to allow for a faster reaction to the stream of consciousness (this, of course, never happened!). I've been meaning to do this for days, but everything has been so new and exciting and I've been doing my best to let Baby Jo make the schedule. I wish we could document every little squeak this little one makes, she is so unbelievably special. Such a gift. I still can't believe that we made a little person, and it's still blowing my mind that she turned out to be a girl!
-Wednesday May 8th-Erin swept my membranes at a 9:30am appointment, which was the first internal exam I had my whole pregnancy--one of the many reasons I love our midwives! Feeling ready to meet our little one I'd been going for lots of walks, doing yoga everyday and trying to get the oxytocin flowing in the days prior...
-Wednesday afternoon while doing some spinning babies movements (a supported inversion to be exact) I experienced a small gush of fluid. It was a very warm day and I wasn't totally sure if it was water or mucous. Told Cindy (our fabulous doula), but didn't let myself get excited. I felt pretty normal for the rest of the day.
-Around midnight I got out of bed feeling cramps. While walking to the bathroom to pee I felt another gush of fluid, but this time it was enough to drip on the way to the bathroom and all over the bath mat. I saw it was tinged pink. I did a little happy dance and then took a few deep breaths telling myself I should just go back to bed.
-Started having contractions from then on starting about 7 minutes apart. They felt different from the cramps I'd been experiencing because they were intermittent. When one was over, it was just over.
-Timed the first one at 12:19am, 57 seconds long. Next 38 second one came 7 and a half minutes later. From then on they came between 3 and 5 minutes apart consistently.
-Trying to take the advice I always give to clients I tried to just go back to bed. I texted Cindy to let her know things might be happening, but decided not to wake Darryl so he would get as much sleep as possible before I needed him
-By around 1-1:30 I couldn't stay in bed anymore and decided to wake Darryl to come downstairs with me. I had to wake him up twice, but once he realized what was going on he was very attentive.
-Darryl brought the birth ball downstairs and I made a piece of peanut butter toast, which would turn out to be the last thing I felt like eating.
-We put Superbad on Netflix (I wanted to watch a movie to try to pass some time--turns out it's really hard to pick a movie in labour!! I was hoping to laugh...) but things were getting progressively more intense and distracting. Cedric (our cat) was hanging around being very cuddly-cat doula!
-I rocked and swayed on the ball through contractions and tried to relax between them, with Darryl rubbing my back and reassuring me.
-I was still leaking when moving around and had to run to the bathroom a couple of times with loose bowels (sorry reader-I said it would be raw!) which caused the contractions to get more intense. With the intensity building I asked Darryl to call Cindy and while he was on the phone with her I threw up for the first time. This actually felt good. This was around 3:30am. Once Cindy was on her way we paged the midwives.
-I asked Darryl to run me a bath in the hallway bathroom because I wasn't ready to wake anybody else up yet.
-I think Cindy arrived around 4:15, where she found me in the bath. I was relieved to have her there and felt like another piece of the birth puzzle was in place. She was able to sit with me while Darryl put our room in order, making room for the birth kit, waterproofing the bed, etc.
-I threw up a couple more times while in the bathtub and felt a sense of relief each time.
-When we knew Shannon (our other midwife) was on her way Darryl woke his parents up and they started to get ready (they actually got up and cleaned their bathroom--nesting for me!!--knowing that I would want to labour in their larger luxurious tub). They prepped coffee for everyone and left for the day by around 6 am. Lynn sweetly asked me through the bathroom door if I was okay and wished me luck, and I felt really lucky to have in laws and parents who trust in birth so much.
-I asked Darryl to run the other bath, and as I got out of the first bath Shannon arrived. She listened to baby and checked my vitals which were all good. She said she could check me whenever I wanted but there was no rush.
-I walked the hallway for a couple of contractions, slow danced with Darryl for a couple and then leaned over our windowsill while Darryl and Cindy rubbed my back and whispered encouragement.
-Before heading into the bigger tub Shannon checked me and found that at 5am I was 5-6cms. I was glad to hear this. I had been trying my best not to guess where I was so as not to be disappointed, and to keep my primal mind working. I was relieved by the progress, but the check gave me a few very strong contractions which had me up walking and then leaning on and hugging Darryl.
-I felt the strong compulsion to clean my glasses (yes, it was very important!), and decided to text my parents at that point knowing that the progress so far meant it wouldn't be forever. I had decided before labour that I didn't want to tell anyone until after the baby was born, but once things were ticking along I felt confident in letting my parents know--I just didn't want anyone fretting during a potential days long labour. My Mom texted back fairly quickly, but I couldn't focus on my phone long enough to read it! Reading her excited and encouraging words much later was really beautiful.
-As I made my way towards the other bathtub I sat down to pee and remember thinking about how the contractions seem to have a pattern of one really strong then one or two less intense ones, almost like after shocks. If I managed to breathe deeply and steadily as they approached I was better able to stay on top of them. I was grateful for the consistent application of lip balm from Cindy, and the consistent offering of water from Darryl.
-Darryl really put me at ease and let me know by his actions and tenderness that he wasn't worried. He happily kept the bathtub clean of bloody show, making little jokes to keep me smiling. I knew that I could be free to react and move in any way I needed to and I had the support I needed.
-When I was in the second bath I had a few moments when I wondered if I could do it, but with the amazing support I had I knew I could. I was so glad to be at home. No temptations, no suggestibility.
-I remember Darryl sweetly telling me how strong I was and how I was doing a great job. I loved kissing him and having him near. He wrote "go Sam go" (you can see it in one of the pictures above) in the steam of the bathroom windows and encouraged me by pointing out the noises of the chickens laying eggs in the background and telling me it was my turn. Cindy was wonderfully encouraging and kept me moving at times when I would get stuck doing the same thing. I felt like she was really there for me when I needed her, but also really respected the quiet moments where Darryl was sweetly pouring water over my back, or rubbing me softly through contractions (turns out she was taking photos I had no idea about, but will treasure forever!!)
-The hardest thing about the bath was that I really had to move to get into workable positions for contractions, which felt overwhelming at times, like I wasn't ready for them. On the other hand, I was able to rest and even sleep with my head against the tub and a towel draped over my body for warmth.
-Shannon said she would check me again at 10am if nothing happened prior to that.
-I really appreciated her presence, steady and calm, trusting and allowing things to unfold naturally in their own timing.
-At some point--what I think must have been transition--I felt I needed to get out of the tub. I headed to our bathroom down the hall and spent a while moving between sitting on the toilet during breaks and standing up in a forward leaning wide legged sway with my hands on my legs during. The colour of the bathroom walls is still burned into my brain.
-I was checked again at what must have been close to 10am and was 9-10cm on one side and 8-9 on the other
-I headed back to my station at the toilet, falling asleep against the wall between contractions and after a while Cindy and Darryl convinced me to walk the hall, up and down the stairs and into the yoga room. I made stops to hold onto the bannister and lean, blowing raspberries through my lips, doing my best to keep my throat and mouth relaxed (thanks Ina May!)
-I remember feeling really thirsty, but not hungry at all. I remember moaning through some contractions and rocking my head from side to side, just following what my body needed to do to get through it.
-When in the yoga room with the morning light coming through, Shannon and Cindy convinced me to squat through a few contractions which felt scary and strong-it was difficult for me to try new things, but at the same time I really trusted my support people and their recommendations.
-I remember Cindy and Shannon sort of giggling at me when I agreed to squat because they knew if anyone could do it it would be the yogini. Though I didn't really want to get into the position, once there it felt very powerful and strong.
-I made my way back into the hallway and was convinced to do some squatting lunges just in case there was still a bit of cervical lip, this made sense to my body and mind and just felt like the right thing to do.
-I made my way back to the toilet again and it was there that I felt the first few light urges to push. I was encouraged to just let my body do it at first.
-At some point I started to feel the need to add to my body pushing and we started to make our way back toward the bedroom. I had a few more contractions in the hallway holding the railing and remember looking down at the Obi and Marley below (our dogs)
-I'm not totally sure if I was checked again or not, but I do remember asking Shannon if I was okay to start "given'r" when my body started to take over pushing in a stronger way.
-My guess is that I started actively pushing around 10:45 or 11, and around this time Erin arrived as our second attending midwife. She has such a calm and soothing demeanour and I was really glad to have the final player there.
-I started really pushing on my knees leaning over stacked up pillows and into Darryl on our bed.
-After a while it seemed that wasn't creating as much progress as hoped for and it was suggested that I try squatting and pushing with Darryl and Cindy supporting me and keeping me cool with cloths. I would collapse into Darryl between contractions and we'd both get a rest.
-After a while squatting became exhausting and I went back to my knees. Contractions were spacing out and I was having trouble finding the oomph and help I needed to move her down.
-As we approached the 2 hour mark it was brought to my attention that it we had been in the hospital it would be time to consult with an OB, but because everyone knew I could do it and Jo's heart rate was amazingly steady I kept going strong.
-I moved back to squatting and during a contraction had Erin feel where Jo's head was. She got me to feel it and it was crazy encouraging to feel it pretty close. It was around then that I started to really realize what it meant to push and my psyche flitted between motivated to meet our baby and scared of the intensity of the sensation.
-As hard as I tried to move her down, contractions were spacing out and at times the sensations brought up feelings of fear. I was very blessed to have the intuition of my midwives present because they seemed to be able to read my mind and helped to coax me into moving into the sensation. I couldn't take my hand away from Jo's head and it was so amazing to feel it move down with each push.
-I tried pushing on my side to conserve some energy and try to get some leverage but I hated it. I moved back to my knees and Darryl's arms to collect myself and breathe for my baby before moving into a dangling squat with Darryl holding me up on the edge of the bed, my feet on the floor and Shannon and Erin cross legged on the floor on either side of me. I'd lean into the window ledge between contractions and dangle into the squat bearing down as Darryl held me up during. Strong man, strong bed!
-This helped progress a lot, but I was getting really tired. Once more to the hands and knees and with more resolve. I knew and the midwives knew that she was really close, and I could feel that she wasn't slipping back anymore after pushes, it was just difficult to get her through the threshold as my contractions were spaced out. At this point it felt like every second contraction was strong enough to make progress. I should mention that I didn't feel any fear about Jo. I knew that she was fine, there was a calmness about the experience even as my body stretched and her head moulded to make the optimal fit. Darryl and I tried nipple stimulation to try to amp up the contractions, which proved to be rather effective, but irritating after a time.
-In her encouraging doula exhaustion Cindy looked at me and said "It's peanuts", and though it's become a goofy joke to us now, at the time I knew she was trying to tell me that what was left was nothing in comparison to what I had already accomplished.
-I was encouraged to try my side again, and this time it was okay, proving that the position of the baby makes a huge difference. She was very close, but we were having a hard time making the final distance. My perineum was described as being like very strong rubber.
-At Shannon's suggestion, I rolled on to my back and tilted my pelvis up, sort of lifting my hips, and counterintuitive to what I would have thought, this is the position that eased Jo out! I've since learned this is a technique to ease a baby who is stuck behind the pubic bone out. Thanks Spinning Babies!
-It took a couple of good pushes like that and her head and then the rest of her body was out. I don't know what I was looking at but I do know Darryl was right by my head, encouraging me, my hands were down with Shannon's supporting my tissues as they stretched to the utmost.
-I know I made some interesting sounds out of pure sensation and intensity. Everything was pure sensation and I knew it needed to happen. I have never felt anything like it in my life.
-I was pretty amazed to find that first stage was a lot easier for me than second stage. I guess that's a testament to the influence that the mind has over what we feel.
-The feeling of Jo coming into the world and up onto my belly was unreal. It took a moment for it to sink in before I asked Darryl what we had. Learning that we had a daughter shocked and amazed me. I couldn't have been more surprised as everyone around me had me convinced I was expecting a son. Either way would have been beautiful, but I am still slightly amazed that we have a girl!
-The placenta was easy and relieving to push out, but the membranes hung on a bit, causing me to have to cough and push a little, which was a funny feeling.
-Though the long crowing phase was intense, I can appreciate that it gave my body the time it needed to stretch and create space for Jo, and as a result there wasn't too much damage to my body, just a couple quick stitches, which to my surprise, really weren't bad at all, thank you adrenalin, birth high and local anaesthetic!
-Jo weight in at 7lbs 10oz, 21 inches long, 33 cmd head circumference. Her time of birth was 1:50pm on May 9th, after nearly 14 hours of an amazing experience. It was a beautiful sunny day.
-One of my favourite things since has been hearing Darryl recount the story, making me feel strong and very Loved. He was the most amazing support I could have imagined and since Jo's birth I have fallen deeper in Love with him that I thought possible. There have been many moments that have brought me to tears, and staring at the two of them sleeping in our bed has caused the well to run over several times. I'm so glad that he witnessed so much, and I feel very empowered knowing who deeply emotionally and physically he cares for me. He really saw it all bared, and I feel we're closer for it. I can't do justice to the well spring of emotions I've experienced in the last week, it's falling in Love all over again. This time, with two people.
I'd love to hear your feedback and comments! Better yet--I'd love to hear/read your birth stories. If anyone wants to share, I'd love to post some firstname.lastname@example.org
My daughter Jo turns a whopping 8 months old today. I'm finding it unbelievable that time has moved by so quickly. On the other hand, she's cutting her top two teeth, and her bedtime has been later than mine was before she existed since Christmas...which reminds me of a very potent saying, "Though some days are long, the years are short".
I've never made a practice out of the whole New Year's Resolution thing, and would be a bit late if I did this year, but I've been thinking that I want to make some changes and I can't think of a better way to keep me honest than feeling accountable to my 8 month old child.
I also figure that if I take this time to sit down and type this out while Jo is napping (yes, I'm crunched over a dozy nursing babe), I'll take it more seriously.
So, without further ado, here's what's been percolating in the ol' brain...
In the past week and a half I have built a new website for my small business Breathe Into Being, started this shiny new blog, and spent a fair bit of time helping Hunny B Photography with social networking. I've been neurotically checking in on Webmaster tools and trying to get my new site crawled so that I can redirect traffic from my old page. I've been trying to do most of this during Jo's naps, which generally looks like me pacing around the kitchen with her in the Ergo until she falls asleep and then making a B-line to the laptop, but there have been moments where I'll admit I've popped her on the floor with a few toys to utilize her fantastic sitting and chewing skills. Sure, I'll sing her songs and interact with her whilst typing and clicking away, but I feel the fog of guilt settling in knowing that she's watching me staring at a computer.
Jo is a very good eater, and enjoys lingering meals at the breastaurant which gives me time to pick up my phone and check emails, Facebook, Instagram, etc. Quite often she'll nurse herself into a little nap, and I find myself nearly glazed over staring at a screen. This bothers me. It bothers me that instead of stopping to look at my beautiful baby peacefully sleeping, I feel compelled to click another link to a buzzfeed thread on something ridiculous. Even when she is awake and engaging with the world around her I often feel compelled to document it through photos and videos on my phone. I'm certainly not the only one who reaches for a phone everytime she does something adorable either. It's got me thinking: do I really want this sweet, impressionable baby to have the impression that everyone around her has an extra rectangular shaped appendage? No, I don't think I do.
Darryl and I enjoy media. Though we haven't had cable in the entire 7 years we've lived together, we enjoy viewing movies and have been known to get temporarily addicted to seasons of HBO and Showtime series. When Jo was predictably falling asleep around 8:30, I didn't feel so bad about turning on a movie or an episode in bed once she was snoozing. Her recent changes in sleep have really highlighted the fact that we do this often as I've found myself wishing her to sleep so we can become media-consuming zombies for a while. Too often. I knew there was some silver lining in the sleep deprivation!
We love to read! Books are something I've been seriously missing in my life since becoming a Mother. It's a 24 hour job, and in the first few months any "me time" I experienced was used to shower, nap, or frantically do yoga--which it turns out isn't all that relaxing! In the past two days I have used one nap a day to sit and read. Hallelujah!
Cut down non work-related screentime to an hour a day or less, and never while Jo is watching.
What this means:
-If I desperately need to check social media, I can do it while Jo is sleeping, and not before breathing in the sweetness that is my wee one napping away.
-If screentime is work-related, I'll get to it while Jo's asleep, or when she's hanging out with her Daddy.
-I'll pull out the beautiful camera-yes, a real one, not attached to a phone!- we purchased three days after Jo was born when I feel the need to document how wonderful she is (unless it's really awesome, and we're out).
-We'll keep up with "Jo about her business", that Darryl started over the Christmas break (setting up our video camera on a tripod in a corner to passively capture what everyday life with Jo is like as she ages).
-No screentime 2 hours before bed on week nights. Low lights, reading to Jo, quiet play, and once she's asleep reading ourselves, or to eachother. No phones, unless there is a rare occassion where they are being used to actually talk to someone. Weekends are free for movie watching once little Miss is sleeping.
The long and short of it: I really feel we owe it to Jo to teach her healthy habits, and in this day and age, media and technology are a huge piece of the pie.
Samantha Strange-Yoga Instructor and Perinatal Support Person