I was a doula for two years before I became pregnant with my first baby. My husband and I were thrilled! I was finishing my last semester of my bachelors and the day after I had the positive test, we closed on our first home. We conceived three months after I had a double hip replacement. My surgeon had said that future vaginal births wouldn’t be an issue, I’m just not sure he was thinking that I would be pregnant so soon. Managing pain the first trimester was a challenge, but by the second I was healing nicely and didn’t have to take Tylenol on a regular basis.
As a doula I had seen a variety of births before my own and I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted for my own birth. Before I ever became pregnant my husband and I agreed on a homebirth. I also had scoliosis growing up and had rods placed through most of my mid back (from above my bra line to above my tailbone). The research I did said an epidural would be impossible which meant I was going the natural route! I knew to do a birth without pain medication that movement is key. Going through labor physiologically (a birth unfolding without medical intervention) was possible, but choosing where to birth to make that happen is one of the biggest deciding factors in whether that is possible.
I knew that being hooked up to monitors and having to be watched closely would drive me insane. I also knew how frustrating it is for clients to be constantly interrupted during surges to be asked their pain scale, the last time they urinated, if they ate that morning, and the first day of their last period (all questions I’ve had asked of clients during contractions). I knew what I wanted and as long as baby and I were healthy - I knew it was possible!
I developed gestational diabetes during my pregnancy and monitored it closely. It was controlled by diet and with a few extra ultrasounds Hank was measuring just fine. My midwife, Ray, did suggest I do very gentle induction methods starting around 38 weeks, even with controlled diet, she was hesitant to see me go past 41 weeks. I got reflexology, acupuncture, chiropractic care, I pumped, inserted evening primrose oil, and had lots of orgasms. At 38 weeks I was 1 cm and 70% effaced. I opted for a stretch and sweep which brought me to 3 cm.
The morning I was 39 weeks I was in a rage all day. I was upset about the most ridiculous things. My doula, Jess said sometimes hormones shifting means baby is coming. I rolled my eyes. That night I couldn’t sleep. I swear I rolled over every 15 minutes. I could NOT get comfortable. I peed every hour, on the hour. With heart burn and restless leg syndrome I was going crazy. Finally at 1 AM I was getting back into bed and I felt a trickle. I knew IMMEDIATELY it was my water. I rushed back to the bathroom and sat on the toilet - more water kept coming out! I was so excited! I put on a depend (a good friend told me this trick and was a great idea) and sat there for a while, leaking, and called Ray. I called Jess. I texted our photographer, and my friend who was going to do massage in labor. I called my sister and my parents. Everyone told me to go back to bed and rest. HA.
I woke up Eric and he was very happy, asked if he could do anything, I told him to get some rest, and he rolled over and went back to sleep. I knew I needed to pray for this upcoming marathon so I went and read Psalm 139, where God talks about knitting us together in our mother’s womb. I knew this baby was safe and that I would get to meet him soon! I did try and lay down but after a few minutes I got my first contraction, almost one hour after my water had broken. It was manageable. I breathed and pretty soon it was over. Then another one came. And another. Pretty soon my heavy breathing woke Eric up and he began rubbing my back. After a few more I hopped up and starting leaning over the bed. I turned on all the lights and told Eric we had to clean before the birth team showed up! So we folded laundry and organized the living room and our room, all in-between contractions. Eric started timing them and they were three minutes apart, lasting from one to two minutes.
I thought we were timing them wrong. They couldn’t be that close together. Jess is my doula-guru, mentor, person who gives me limitless advice, and now my doula, told me she always calls her clients when they say their contractions are close together. If they talk on the phone for a few minutes and no contractions, chances are its still early labor. In five minutes I had two contractions on the phone but I was honestly feeling okay. I was able to mumble through them so I assumed it was still early labor. I told Ray and Jess that they don’t need to come just yet, but maybe in a couple hours.
Things took a turn after that call and I began leaning on our ironing board during every surge. I began feeling a high pitch squeal come out and I wanted to jump out of my skin. There was so much pain in my butt I kept lifting my feet off the ground to try and escape it. I had to remind myself during every contraction to breathe, keep my feet level, and to loosen my jaw and relax my shoulders. Eric came behind me and did double-hip squeeze which instantly took the pressure off my rectum. It made the contractions so much better.
I felt hot and even though I picked out a cute sports bra so I wouldn’t have my boobs hanging out for my professional photos, I took my clothes off. Eric began filling up our bathtub because I did NOT feel like waiting for the birth tub to fill. I knew that if my labor stalled in the water that Ray would make me get out. But I needed a break. The water did nothing. I laid on my side trying to get the warm water to cover my belly but it wasn’t giving me relief. I was moaning through every contraction, LOUDLY. I could hear Ray on speakerphone with Eric asking how I was doing, she was on her way. She heard me howling and asking if I was pushing. Without realizing it I had been bearing down during my contractions. Up until this point I really thought I still had a good day or so of labor ahead of me and I felt like the biggest baby.
When they say it feels like a big poop, it feels like a big poop. It felt like a poop the size of a bowling ball trying to come out and it wouldn’t. At this point my contractions seemed non stop; I was being so incredibly vocal, and it didn’t sound like powerful grunts that I tell my clients to do. It was high pitch screams. My eyes were glued shut and I knew Eric was there but I felt another presence grab my hand. It was Jess. I had told her not to bothering coming and she came anyways. She told me to breathe deep and I yelled that I couldn’t. She said, “Okay, you’re doing a great job.”.
Soon after Ray came in, gloved up, reached her hand in the water, and said, “Oh hi baby!”. Yep, he was on his way. My body took over and I HAD to bear down harder. I had wanted the fetal ejection reflex to take over, and maybe it had, but I had thought if my body were to take over I wouldn’t have to work as hard. But I pushed. And it was not fun. I briefly opened my eyes and saw everyone crouching next to the tub. Eric wanted to catch the baby so he was ready, arms over my belly. Telling me our son was almost here.
He began crowning and I felt like I was tearing in two. I asked in my clit had ripped, Ray told me no and I didn’t believe her. Ray asked if I wanted to touch his head coming out and I had no interest in doing that. He was having a little trouble and Ray had to reach down and yank him out, all while keeping his head under water (if they touch air it signals their body to breathe, but if they’re kept under water they don’t inhale). He was finally out and plopped on my chest. I couldn’t believe it! His wet warble cry was so sweet. I was in shock.
From first contraction to Hank being born, it was four hours. People were shocked and so was I. It has taken me a long time to come to terms with it. I always thought a short first labor would be the best possible outcome but it took me so by surprise it was a little traumatizing at first. Ray told me that was normal, your body doesn’t have time to catch up to the contractions and the mental aspect is just sort of rushed through. I am very happy I had a planned homebirth, because I was in denial I was in active labor and he would have been born at home, or in the car. I am thankful for my incredible birth team, husband, and my creator who knit me together in my mother’s womb, who created Hank, my beautiful son.
This blog was originally posted on 1/14/2018
As a first time mom we all wonder how labor will start. Will it be like on t.v. where all of a sudden I will be doubled over in the worst pain of my life? Will I have an unexpected gush from between my legs while I’m shopping at target (Clean up aisle 4 anyone??)? Is it going to be unbearable where even if I planned for a natural birth I will immediately be requesting an epidural? How will my husband react- do I have a cool calm and collected partner or will he fly off the handle grabbing things as we rush out of the house headed for the hospital? Will I even be going to the hospital? Will I make it to the hospital? Should I just google, “How to remove amniotic fluid from fabric?” now? How will I know what it feels like? Will I see my mucus plug? Do I need to check the toilet paper every time, what if I miss it? Did I choose the right care provider? Do I even like them- what if I change my mind while I’m in labor?
I have barely scratched the surface of the amount of questions a new mom asks when she is in the final countdown to the big day- which of course will be on her due date because that is how we expect it to be, right? There are so many unknowns and if we allow them to take over they can scare us during labor. The fear of the unknown is a basic and carnal fear that takes us back to childhood- wondering what was really down in the basement or under the bed--and birth is no different. Our fight or flight response takes over and we try and figure out if this is a good and safe place to give birth. With all of these questions spinning around in our heads how can we possibly slow down to focus on the task at hand- getting this baby out?
Finally, a calm voice comes in through all the static that has been created by your mind. A source of relief washes over you as someone with experience in birth lets you know that all is good and your body is doing exactly as it needs to - aiding in the descent and eventual birth of your baby. This voice can come from many places, one being a doula who is well versed in birth and with a plethora of ideas, training, and knowledge on how to move with your body and baby as they work together in labor. There is so much more than just centimeters dilated to when your body is ready to deliver this precious bundle Earthside and as a birth doula I’m here to prepare you for what is to come, let you know that you are not alone (Not even CLOSE), and to hold the space for you and your growing family. I will do my best to answer as many questions as possible and to get you good information on the things in your life that are about to change drastically, but the one thing I do not want you to feel is alone.
Your steadfast doula :)
The birth of Alo'e and the growth of our ohana. Ohana means family in the Hawaiian language. When I think of my laboring and the birth of our son Alo'e, the word ohana is one of the first words that come to mind. Not only because Alo'e has made us his family but because our midwife, Karen, her assistant Jenn, and our doula Kathryn, also became our ohana.
Before becoming pregnant, I knew that I would birth at home. Humans have been giving birth for thousands upon thousands of years, especially with the true support of others, before hospitals as we know them existed. It is the most natural thing, as women and humans, we could possibly do. I'm completely aware of the need for intervention, when there is high risk or complications, so I am very blessed that my pregnancy, labor, and birth went really well.
In fact, I absolutely loved being pregnant. I'm 37 and considered by some, elderly primigravida or advanced maternal age. Karen never made me feel that way. She's been there for so many women of all ages and circumstances and is full of knowledge, positive energy, and a realistic outlook.
During pregnancy, I easily read over 50 books about being pregnant, all kinds of birth stories, what your body is going through, how the baby is developing, so on and so forth. I watched endless birthing videos from people who had home, hospital, birth centers, and even births that happened outdoors. I felt confident, excited, and ready to go through the process of labor and birth.
Preparing myself with all that valuable knowledge was gold; it enriched me in so many ways. However, during my labor, I couldn’t really apply any of that information to what I was going through, which was another reminder that we all experience things differently and your body will do what your body will do, so you must listen to it.
My water broke around 5 am on Friday, April 10th. This is about one week before my "due date". My partner, Davidson, and I weren't sure what to expect. Would contractions start soon after? Would I be giving birth right away? I contacted Karen immediately and she was currently at a birth, but assured me all is well and what to do with myself. Which was eat, sleep, relax, and let her know of any changes. I also spoke to Kathryn, who said the same thing. Davidson and I were so excited it was hard to really rest, so we cooked food and prepared our home. Of course during this pandemic, we had some glitches, our birth tub supplies wouldn't arrive until the moment Alo'e was born, (yes, the USPS guy dropped off the box in plain sight of me pushing Alo'e out in our kitchen). Fortunately, we have some very incredible friends who were able to help us (at a distance) to get the tub supplies before Alo'e's arrival.
Friday came and went with minor contractions. Saturday, I started to really feel them, nothing that close together until about 5 pm. We had been in contact with Karen and Kathryn throughout the day and when my rushes were about 10 minutes apart, Kathryn decided to make the trip down. Both Karen and Kathryn live over an hour away from us. By the time Kathryn arrived which was around 7 pm, I was in bed with my husband feeling the pangs of labor while he took notes and supported my every move. Kathryn sat on the bed with us and started timing my contractions all while listening as I was in and out of moaning from the surges, cracking jokes, and talking about the supernatural being natural. My rushes/surges/contractions started to take me to a place that felt utterly psychedelic. Moaning and breathing deeply with each contraction felt like I was doing a call of the wild. I had no perception of my volume or even the space and time in between it all. My inner instinctual self took over completely.
Around midnight, I got into the birthing pool that we had set up in front of our fireplace in hopes that we would have a roaring fire during birth. I, of course, was so hot that a fire was definitely not about to happen. So we lit candles and burned incense at the altar we created on our kitchen table with items from loved ones who have passed, from ones that are still with us, our travels, and little tokens from nature that we've collected over the years.
So from our bedroom to the birth tub, my contractions became closer and closer together. Karen arrived around 2 am and Jenn, her assistant, came shortly after. At this point, the laboring felt like the most animistic, instinctual, out of this world, mind-bending, fever trip I could ever be on. It was hard to keep my eyes open. I was pulsing, moaning, pushing, shaking (I didn't realize how much you can uncontrollably shake from hormones during labor), and having the worst calf cramp/charley horse of my entire life. Thank the universe for Davidson and Kathryn who massaged my leg for about 12 hours straight! I’m also so deeply thankful for Karen and Jenn for encouraging the space to listen to myself, at my own pace, while also offering their strong knowledge about how to keep me as comfortable as possible. Most of all, I’m grateful for Alo’e hanging in there, strong as can be, with a steady heart beat.
My contractions were shifting from being close together to further apart to shorter lengths and then back again. None of them felt like I could get a really good push in. After hours of pushing in different positions, rooms, and taking breaks in between it all. I was dealt a few options from Karen. One being, eat and rest and try again, but if that doesn't work we have to consider going to the hospital. I finally started to really rest in bed and do breathing exercises with Davidson and Kathryn. It was one of the most difficult things to do. My body just wanted to moan. Karen and Jenn helped me transform the vocal energy into concentrated pushes when I would have a rush. So after resting and focusing on my surges, it was suggested to me to try to use the bathroom. Davidson and Jenn came into the bathroom with me and I was able to urinate and with that came a really strong contraction. Jenn said, push like you've been constipated for a month. Which honestly, after her saying that, something clicked. I had been pushing but trying to keep it contained to the front rather than towards the back, if that makes sense. I'm not sure how much time had passed from the bathroom to the actual crowning but it felt like no time at all. After pushing on the toilet, I wanted to push in the kitchen. On the way to the kitchen I had a contraction and got on all fours in the hallway to push, then the same in the kitchen. Karen suggested the birthing stool again which hours earlier it felt uncomfortable, but this time it was exactly what I needed. I also figured out how to get my body to contract by standing up a certain way, which was making it easier to have longer and stronger pushes. With Davidson and our birth team holding me, rubbing my back, and giving me counter pressure, within minutes Alo'e was crowning and what then felt like seconds, he was in my arms and on my chest.
That moment, right there, of Alo’e on my chest and Davidson holding me, is absolutely the most beautiful moment of my entire life. Being able to birth at home with my remarkable life partner, our silly cat, six baby chickens, and the knowledge of three magical women, who helped create the space and time for me to be in tune with my labor, was by far the most incredible experience both my husband and I have ever had. It's now approaching six weeks later, with the pandemic in full force, and being new parents without the continual physical presence of family or friends, and our birth team being our only visitors in over two months; we are still feeling the high from our love for Alo'e and our experience of giving birth at home. Sometimes before bed, with Alo’e on my chest, I close my eyes and think about the day that Alo'e can look at our home and say, "I was born right here, Mama". We are all truly grateful for the love and support by Karen, Jenn, and Kathryn, our forever ohana.
Alo’e Phoenix Nalu Thomas
Easter Sunday, April 12, 2020 at 14:52
8.3 pounds & 21 inches
After I had my first child I didn't want anymore. The whole experience was unfortunate. I didn't enjoy my pregnancy, I was horribly constipated the whole first trimester and I didn't have the most supportive medical providers. One of the OBs had a sign in his office that read, "Home Delivery is for Pizza". I didn't know, my insurance covered them. They induced me and I wasn't even a week late. I was admitted to the hospital at 10 am, they told me we would have a baby in my arms by that night. That night came and went, and so did another. I was convinced my body didn't work. Why didn't I go into labor on my due date, why did they have to try and force this baby out of me, why was the induction not working? Finally, my water broke by itself as my midwife was unwrapping the amnio-hook, something in my body did something they wanted. After several hours of pushing she was born, I think it was wonderful, I look happy in the pictures but I don't really remember it myself. Maybe it was the drugs, maybe I was just tired but that set the tone for the next year. A few years later I would figure had postpartum depression. This was how I became a mother.
When my daughter was three I got pregnant again. I didn't forget my first pregnancy and birth but was set to change things for this pregnancy and birth. My first change was the midwife and medical practice. My next change was listening to all the horror stories people would tell me. I would stand there politely as they spewed their trauma but I didn't listen. Some other changes were that I read more good books about pregnancy. I read more Ina May Gaskin, and others who talked about how childbirth was natural and that my body could totally do this. I was a different person this pregnancy, I wasn't scared of labor and birth. I was still scared of postpartum depression but talked with my midwife about what we could do if it reared its ugly head. We had a plan in place and that took some of the fear away. My water broke before contractions started, I waited for my husband and my neighbor to come home from work. Nick and I went off to the hospital and my neighbor watched my daughter until my mother in law could come.
At the hospital things were good, I was calm. My midwife was right there as I walked into the hospital. We hung out in triage until they could take me to a room. I was contracting but wasn't bothered by it yet, I was so much more in control of this experience. In about six hours I had pushed out my son. He breastfed great, he slept, we ate Wendy's and watched Law & Order. What a great birth!
These two experiences were so radically different. One I felt like shit after, the other I was a glowing breastfeeding goddess during postpartum. It was during this time that I was feeling that there are others who might have experiences like my first and it could scar them. How could I help that to not happen? What could I do?
I started looking into becoming a childbirth educator and then I found out about doulas. It was like a lightning strike! I wanted to do that! I started researching doula trainings and found one not far away and signed up. I read and read and read all the books on the reading list and more. I was so excited, I devoured all the information I could. I trained and certified as a birth doula, then a postpartum doula, then a lactation counselor, then a childbirth educator, then a placenta encapsulator. I wanted to help all the families I could have the best experience for them.
My daughter is now 12 and it seems like a lifetime ago that I had that experience. I look at the new mother I was and want to go back in time and hug her. She needed support, and education. I want to be her doula so she could start her journey as a mother feeling empowered not invisible. I am grateful for all that experience taught me and what it has made me into but I don't wish that on anyone and that is why I'm a doula.
It was Sunday, June 21st, 2015. I woke up in the morning feeling sad, as this was the first Father’s Day I was not spending with my father who had passed just two months before I got pregnant. Trying to keep busy (and in full nesting mode) I finished my final touches downstairs in my birthing suite (my birth was at home) and my mother came over to take me to Walmart for some things I felt I had to have before I went into labor. I still needed a curtain rod to hang my curtain, an end table in the living room for my guests, bathroom supplies and more. After putting only a quarter of the stuff away, exhausted and missing my nap, my mother left and I began to cook a Father’s Day dinner for my fiance. We probably ate around 7:30 pm and then I asked him if he minded if I left the dishes until morning, I needed to lay down! He of course said he did not care and up to bed we went. We watched our Sunday night TV and just before 11:00 pm I got up, went to the bathroom, turned the light off and got back in bed. We both said goodnight and closed our eyes. Not even three minutes later, I yell,
“Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God!”
“What?!” He asks.
“My water just broke! Come get me, help!”
He hops out of bed to come get me and walks me to the bathroom. As I sit on the toilet he asks me, “Are you sure?”
I probably gave him the look of death as I said, “Yes I am sure, do you see this?!”
Every woman and every labor is different. I was told that a lot of waters do not even break until active labor or even delivery. I was also told that when your water breaks it may not be a huge “gush” and you may not be sure, or you could have a false alarm, that it wasn’t always like the movies where the women end up standing in a puddle! Well there was no mistaken mine, I had the movie-like experience! My water had broke, at 11:00 pm, on Father’s Day. It was my birthing time!
(Off note: My baby girl is feeding right now and I am typing this blog at the same time! Go me for being a multi-tasking, breastfeeding, coffee drinking, blog writing momma!)
After my water broke I called my midwife right away to tell her. I had no pressure waves yet and felt pretty normal. She told me to get some sleep and that my waves should start anytime between now and morning. We hung up, I got back in bed and tried to close my eyes. (HOW am I supposed to SLEEP!?) Well within ten minutes I felt my first wave. We timed them right away because they seemed awfully close for the beginning. Three minutes. Within fifteen minutes I had five consecutive pressure waves. I called my midwife back and told her about my waves, that they were small and not discomforting yet, but happening every three minutes. She again advised me to try and sleep. I got out my iPod and began my Hypnobabies tracks immediately.
By 2:30 am I hadn’t slept and could not concentrate on my hypnosis as well as I wanted to. I was so anxious and my waves were still so close – anywhere from two to four minutes apart and lasting about fifteen to thirty seconds. I needed to get ready. I woke my fiance up (HOW could he of fallen asleep anyway, right?!) and told him we needed to go downstairs and setup. After the birth we were going to be sleeping/staying downstairs for about a week (two months later and we are still down here every night) as I wasn’t going to be able to use the stairs. I began gathering things like I was an animal heading into hibernation. I took two trips downstairs and brought everything I was going to need for the next week with me. My laptop and chargers, my toothbrush and hairbrush, my makeup (like I was going to reapply during my birthing time) and anything I could think of that wasn’t already down there.
By 5 am I had my fiance filling the birthing pool and doing last night's dishes while my midwife was on her way. I had been lying on the couch getting deep into my hypnosis and as a first time mom I was not sure what I was feeling. Is this it? Am I close? Am I not even close? I needed reassurance.
My midwife arrived around 6:00 am. She sat with me and asked me some questions before doing my first check. I did not want to know how far I was throughout my birthing time and I had not been checked for dilation at any of my appointments.
“You are in labor, Teresa. I think you are going to start to feel things a little more intensely in the hours to come. I want you to rest as much as you can. I am gonna go home for a little, call me when you would like me to come back, when you really need to use your vocals to get through a wave,” she said to me. I knew then that this was indeed the very beginning if she wasn’t even staying, and for a minute, that scared me.
I continued to listen to my hypnosis on the couch and slip in and out “sleep” (it was probably a deep state of hypnosis) between waves. I was becoming less anxious and more relaxed every hour. I could not believe I was almost eight hours into my birthing time. To me it had only felt like two. Little did I know, I had twenty more hours to go.
As I laid on the couch and watched the sunrise through the windows, my waves were getting stronger and I was starting to moan at the peak of each one. I could feel the difference in intensity and needed to change my atmosphere. It was probably around 8 o’clock AM when I got off the couch. My fiance, Albe, had filled the birthing pool halfway and covered it so it kept warm. I asked him to finish filling as I was now feeling the waves with more pressure and so eager to get in my birth pool and see how good it felt. As he finished filling I got in the shower and let the hot water run down my back and on my stomach. This felt AMAZING and got me super excited to get in my pool. Once the water was filled enough and the correct temperature Albe helped me in. WOW. Words cannot even describe that first feeling when I sat in my pool seat and rested my head back, submerged in a pool of 100 degree water. The relief is indescribable and the relaxation was instant. My hypnosis tracks were playing out loud through a speaker and I was truly in paradise.
My midwife and my birth photographer – who I forgot to mention was already being updated throughout the night as well – were notified that I was in the pool and feeling intense pressure waves, using my vocals through them but deeply relaxed at the same time, and that I believed the time was right for them to come. While I waited for them to arrive, I was still pretty alert. The last time I touched my phone was at 9:47 am after I got the “I’m on way” texts from the midwife and photographer and I sent a returning text to a friend who asked how I was doing. My response was, “Oh just chillin’ in my birthing pool listenin’ to my hypno tracks”…(this was a surprise to me…I barely remember texting this plus I was 11 hours into my labor and “chillin”) and then I took a labor-selfie I was going to send to a friend to show her I was wearing the birthing stone she had gotten me!
I didn’t pick my phone back up until 3:52 am when I took my first photo (besides the photographer pictures obviously, but we had not seen them yet!) of my brand new baby girl.
Heather, my midwife, arrived right around 11 am. I was starting to feel silly I called her back so soon because I was so relaxed and happy when she arrived, but I was definitely having much more intense pressure waves, as she could tell as well. The photographer, Lauren, arrived around 11:30 am and I believe somewhere in between that my mother and mother-in-law also arrived. (I did not see them until 2:30 am! Way to be patient, Moms!) My best friend, Erica also came over sometime before 2 pm. My timeline is going to be a little off – as I was so deeply relaxed and not keeping track of time. The only way I estimated time was by the sun setting through the windows. All I can really tell you between then and 7 pm is that my best friend came in and sat with me for a couple hours (I thought she was only there for maybe twenty minutes!) and Albe was in and out of the room running his business through his cell phone and still being the best birth partner I could of asked for!
I could see my Mom through the curtain a few times cooking and I could smell the homemade spaghetti sauce.
I had no idea where Lauren was or why she wasn’t taking photos (she was but I had no idea!) and Heather was being the sweetest midwife in the world, her voice was so calming to me and she patiently waited for me to get through each wave to ask me questions, check on me and offer me food and water. I still had not had a dilation check since 6 am.
The next thing I can remember well is when the student midwife, Yuliya, arrived. Oh, and I remember when Heather said it was time to call her, when my vocals were getting louder and longer every wave. This excited me! For sure I was close if she was calling in her reinforcements! Once she got there, she checked my blood pressure and my dilation. Little did I know I was 7 cm and the midwives told Albe and our family that the baby would be here by dinner time! Good thing I did not know this news, or I would have been HIGHLY disappointed come midnight and still no baby! Things were pretty intense in the later evening hours. I got out of the pool a couple times to labor on my birthing ball and cool off.
This intense laboring went on throughout the afternoon and passed dinner time. I will tell you I could not have done this without my amazing fiance, my awesome midwives, supportive and patient family, and most of all, my water bottle spray fan! I am telling you, this $5.00 item save my life that day. Through every single wave I can remember I was being sprayed with cold misty water and fanned! It is a MUST HAVE for natural births!
Sometime around 7 pm is when I began to push. I wasn’t pushing the traditional way, I was “breathing my baby out” using my breath and vocals to allow my body to do the work for me. I pushed in the pool for quite some time. At one point I remember Heather saying to me, “It’s you versus the sunset…and I think you’re going to win.” She was wrong. (I still love you, Heather!!) The sun was setting and I was not making progress and exhausted. Heather and Yuliya suggested I get out of the pool to speed up the progression and have another dilation check to make sure all was okay. That is when they discovered I was stuck at 9.5 cm and a piece of my cervix just did not want to break free! They did a few things that I would rather not speak of, mainly because it was the worst pain I ever physically felt, but also because I am not quite sure still what was happening. They were trying to break that piece of cervix and no hypnosis in the world could of stopped me from feeling that! I did NOT want to be pushing out of the water, it hurt. In the water all I felt was my “pressure” and “discomfort” but outside of the water, I felt the pain! My “pushing baby out” track was on repeat for already 3 hours and at this point I needed to come out of my hypnosis and get this baby out!
After pushing on all fours for a while I decided to go lay down in bed and try to sleep – yes, 24 hours into my labor (3 hours of pushing) and I try to go to sleep – in between pushes. I think I really did slip away a few times – I really needed it. I tried side laying pushes on both sides and squatting against the bed. I think this is where I began to crown. They could see I was so close, yet I was still so far away! I was so terrified they were going to tell me I needed to be transferred at this point but they were SO patient with me and let my body take its time and naturally progress as slow or fast as it was. After these positions were not making much of a difference, my midwives suggested toilet laboring. I had tried this a couple minutes earlier in the day and I HATED it, but they thought it was most effective so we went to the toilet. I was determined this would be my last move. I was going to push this baby out! There were times I could not believe what I was feeling was not the head fully out. It was about a quarter of the way out for nearly 2 hours now. Ever try walking from room to room with half a head sticking out of your (yeah)? It is not fun! At this point, I was making the most progress but it was least favorite position so it was bittersweet. After an hour or so of squatting, sitting, leaning, slipping through Albe’s arms, we were both too exhausted to go on this way.
I needed to be on all fours again so back to the ottoman it was. I pushed on all fours here for sometime and was closer than ever! Albe was behind me, waiting to catch our little princess. After some time my midwife told me if I could stand up and give three big pushes during squatting, this would be it. But I knew how much catching our baby meant to Albe so I tried to stay where I was. We were debating which way should I go and he asked me if I wanted to try sitting up. I told him I knew he wanted to catch so I would stay however that possible. My words were actually, “It’s up to you babe, it’s your moment”. My midwives and the photographer were so moved and could not believe I just said that witnessing what was currently happening to me. Thinking back, I have no idea what I was thinking saying that either! (Just kidding, babe! I love you!) So we decided I should stand /squat.
28 hours in, 7.5 hours of pushing, nearly 4 hours of crowning and over 10 positions later, out came my beautiful, healthy baby girl at 2:14 am on June 23rd, 2015. The instant relief was unlike anything I had felt before. Finally, she was here.
This blog was previously posted February 15, 2019
I started training as a doula about 2 years ago. I was so excited to help families through labor and delivery and help them advocate for themselves through those tough hours. I just knew labor and delivery was where I wanted to be and believed that’s where I could help most as a doula. That all is very much still where I want to be but I have also found a calling of helping as a postpartum doula. It’s only recently that doulas are becoming more popular. We’ve all said “I’m a doula” only to be met with a blank stare and then explain a doula is someone who assists, comforts, and advocates for families during labor and delivery. Then you add that you’re a postpartum doula and people automatically assume it’s only for people with postpartum depression. It’s not. Just as there are social movements to make labor and delivery doulas more accessible for everyone; I believe postpartum doulas are also an essential resource for families. Postpartum doulas provide information, assistance, comfort, and advocacy during the days and months after labor.
Somewhat through circumstance I have found myself in the postpartum doula world more often than the labor and delivery side of the birth community. I have also found there is a huge disparity in how much someone prepares for labor and delivery versus how much they prepare for the postpartum period. Many families I talk to and work with have read countless books, gone to childbirth classes and get daily or weekly updates from websites on what size fruit or vegetable the baby is this week, as well as what the baby is doing in the uterus now! They know positions they want to labor in and some comfort techniques they want to try. All of this is great and there certainly needs to be more access to evidence based information for parents to be making informed decisions and knowing what is within the “norm” for a laboring person. But then there is this huge void of familiarity of what exactly life is going to look like once baby is born. What does sleep look like? What does a feeding schedule look like (hint: There’s not really a schedule for a while)? How do parents get to eat, sleep, and bathe? What does recovery look like for the pregnant person? What is the “norm” for this postpartum period? What decisions will you be faced with?
When I talk with fellow doulas, childbirth educators, and providers most agree that postpartum is generally overlooked ahead of time. Parents are so focused on the birth that it can be very overwhelming to think too far past that. But here’s the trouble with not encouraging some planning of the postpartum time ahead. Once you have your baby you will be extremely sleep deprived, you’ll be going possibly days between showers, you’ll be experiencing physical symptoms of recovery. You may not have the time or resources to look up information or read books or attend a class to make informed decisions.
So what is the solution to this problem? I believe having a very detailed postpartum plan is key. Being able to write down and think out all the different possibilities for what the postpartum period is going to look like and how you will handle decision making during that time. Then, when you’re at your wits end and sleep deprived and can’t possibly make it to the kitchen to make ramen noodles you can look and see that your neighbor agreed to bring some meals over. When your older child gets sick you can see that an aunt has agreed watch them. You can call a lactation consultant when your pump breaks and you can’t remember the best way to hand express. This gives you a plan for physical recovery whether you have a vaginal or cesarean delivery and allows you to stock up on some of those very helpful supplies ahead of time so you’re not sending a partner or friend out to the 24 hour pharmacy to pick up a numbing spray at 2 am. Unlike a labor and delivery plan which frequently changes from the original goals; a postpartum plan tends to stay more consistent and you are able to plan for multiple outcomes ahead of time. Meal prep and a good list of friends and family who agree ahead of time to help if called upon are great. Also make a list of things around the house that others can do for you. Can someone come feed the pets? Can someone come do laundry or wash dishes? Someone else can come sweep and vacuum. Have a neighbor take your trash out to the curb when they take theirs out. Essentially during the first few months when someone comes to visit put them to work on at least one small task that will make your day a little easier. They’ll feel better and so will you!
You of course can also consider hiring a postpartum doula and assuring you’ll get support and evidence based information without the judgement that may come from all the unsolicited new parent advice you’ll be sure to get. There are many ways to parent with a newborn and it takes time and work to find out what works best for baby and parent. Making sure you have support is essential. Most other cultures around the world surround the new family with support and care. Let’s consider fostering that here in our own communities and create more happy healthy families. Doulas are not typically covered by insurance so also consider adding a postpartum doula onto your baby registry for someone to pay for X amount of hours ahead of time. Many doulas are open to sliding scale, payment plans, and bartering as well. We make a living doing this and we chose this work to be there for families in need. It is not a luxury but a need to have support during your postpartum period.
Being a new parent is magical, absolutely. But it is also messy, and challenging, and hard work. Setting realistic expectations and goals ahead of time can really set a family up for a positive, memorable, postpartum period. Those first days, weeks, and months are some of the most challenging but they are certainly some of the most cherished. You will bond with your baby and learn who they are a little more each day. It is remarkable to be a part of that journey and I am so grateful for the families who let me support them postpartum. I highly suggest during pregnancy to make a postpartum plan, attend some classes for breastfeeding and/or infant care classes, and also hiring a postpartum doula to give you support.
I was due with Jude in early June 2014. He was my second, and I delivered his big brother at Lifecycle Women Care in Bryn Mawr. During his brother’s birth, I arrived at the birth center fully dilated and was told it was time to push, so I didn’t get to labor there or wait for my body to have an urge to push. Going into my younger son’s birth, those were the focus of my birth hopes - I really wanted to labor in the tub, and I really wanted to wait to feel the urge to push.
My son was due on June 4, 2014, and I woke up that morning feeling “weird”. Nothing I could describe but it was noticeable to me. That evening, I began to feel crampy, but no contractions. My mom was in town for the birth and was driving me a little crazy asking if I felt anything, so I kept my crampy feelings to myself. Around 12:30 am on the 5th, I began to have actual contractions. My husband checked me* and I was slightly dilated. I labored in bed for a while, relaxing between contractions. Around 3:30 in the morning, we called our friend to come watch our son, called our doula Jessica, and decided to head to the birth center. We arrived there around 4:30, and I was dilated to 8 cm. I immediately got in the tub, and was so relaxed. I was falling asleep between contractions in the tub, so soothed by the smell of Jessica’s deodorant .
I started to feel “pushy” in the tub. I really did not want to get out of the tub, so the midwife and I agreed that I would labor through one pushy contraction in the tub. After that contraction, I got out of the tub and felt a contraction coming as I moved out of the bathroom and towards the bed. The midwife got me a birthing stool to stop to take a break during the next contraction, and my son was born during that contraction on the bathroom floor. We moved to the bed, amazed that he was here and that it had gone so smoothly. I was so grateful to my midwife, and doula Jessica for such a dream birth. I’m now I expecting my 3rd and hoping for a similarly dreamy birth
*Her husband is a doctor.
This blog post was originally posted 2/23/2018
It is such an honor to be invited to the birth of a baby. Whether you are the soon to be grandparents, aunt or best friend, to be there for such a special time in the expectant family's life is truly special. With that great honor also comes the responsibility to help keep the birth environment safe, secure and one that will allow the pregnant person to labor the way needed and desired. The people around the laboring person can have a huge influence on the labor, the birth and the entire experience. There are so many things you can do to help the family during this time and there are somethings that, even though well intentioned, might discolor the experience for the new parents.
When you’re a first-time parent, you need all the help you can get. Blessed breaks from grandma and grandpa and casseroles from the neighbors are surely welcomed, but they’re not the only place you can turn for guidance. Your phone is also full of tools to get you through the crazy first year with your little one, and we’re here to highlight some of the best ones!
4 Best Apps for New Parents
If you’re only using your smartphone to zone out in your pediatrician’s waiting room and send SOS texts to your postpartum doula, you’re not making the most of the miniature computer in your pocket.
This blog was originally posted on April 9, 2019.
Cesarean Awareness Month was started by ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) to shine a spotlight on the number of cesarean births in the United States. ICAN also wanted to bring attention to the lack of access women have to VBAC supportive medical care. In 2016 the cesarean rate in the U.S. was 31.9%, going down from 32% in 2015 but still not where we need to be. The WHO (World Health Organization) recommends a target of 10-15%. Research shows that most pregnant people want to deliver vaginally and half of the Cesareans performed are not medically necessary. So, what's up?
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