A Midwife’s Birth Story
Holland Baker Jones: born Jan 29 at 8:51 pm at home, in water
Here is your mommy and daddy during pushing with your sweet midwife encouraging me. Meili is standing guard too.
Dear Holland I wanted to tell you the story of your birth. It all started on Tuesday morning 1/29/13, mommy woke up with some warm up labor, mostly irregular contractions and feeling really crampy. I told your daddy it could be the start of something or maybe just warm up that may still take a few more weeks. I was 38 weeks 4 days pregnant with you so it all seemed too early to really be happening for a first baby. I decided to ignore them and get some office work done. Daddy decided to stay home and work too. Later in the morning I took a bath and everything seemed to stop completely. I took a nap later that day and then daddy and I went for a walk. I only had about 2 contractions on the walk. By then I was sure you weren’t coming for a few more weeks.
Around 5:15 pm I was making dinner and I got hit with a good contraction. I was scheduled to teach an oil workshop that night at 6 pm. I remember thinking I need to calm everything down so I can go to that workshop. So I got in a bath to relax and see if it would stop everything. I called the lady who set up the workshop to tell her I thought I was in early labor, but then I was feeling bad for canceling and decided I’d push through and just go teach real quick. As I’m talking my self into going to this class the contractions are getting more intense and lasting longer. Around 5:25 pm I was in true active labor contractions were lasting a min and starting to come every 3-4 min. They were pretty intense for starting off labor. I called your midwife Gina and told her I didn’t know how I’d teach with these contractions. She said no your not going to teach, give me the lady’s number ill take care of it. Not long after that I checked my cervix and found I was 5 cm and things were moving fast. Daddy asked if he should call Gina to come and I said yes. Contractions were pretty intense and on top of each other. Your daddy was trying to set up the big birth pool and get all the scriptures put up while running back to me every time he heard me start to moan trough a contraction. He did such a great job coaching me through out the process. Daddy would squeeze mommy’s hips and encourage me with prayers, verses and telling me I could do it and that I was beautiful. It was such a special time for daddy and I. We really felt God’s presence in our home. We had an amazing worship play list going in the back round as well. It truly felt like a worshipful labor and birth.
Your midwife Gina arrived at 6:24 pm. She was amazing helping me get through the hard contractions. I would look into her eyes and just focus on relaxing through each contraction. At 6:41 pm I got onto the toilet to labor and I was 6 cm, 100% effaced. I felt your sutures were transverse so we decided to do a few lunges to get your head turned. At 6:58 pm my water broke with a big gush, I was in the middle of a lunge leaning over our bed with Daddy squeezing my hips behind me. It startled daddy. I was crying out to the Lord for strength for each contraction and thanking Him for bringing you to us safely. By this point the big pool was almost filled up. Once the temp was perfect I got into the pool with daddy, it was 7:15 pm at this point. I mostly labored in the kneeling position. At 7:45 pm I was dilated to 8 and then 9 cm at 7:59 and then fully dilated at 8:02 pm. We called Keri your birth photographer to come when I told them I was 8 cm it was really hard to get on top of the contractions during transition because things were moving so fast.
At 8:13pm I started pushing. I believe Keri your birth photographer and Beth our midwife assistant arrived at this point. Pushing was more intense then I ever imagined. I remember looking up from time to time at those beautiful faces and I knew I was surrounded by women of faith. Their love and support were beautiful. Everyone has their opinion on pushing feeling better or not. The only thing I can say is that I loved knowing it meant you were nearly here. I could feel you moving down with the pushes, which was so reassuring. There were a few times when I felt it was too much and I remember your daddy and your midwife telling me I could do it and I was almost done. At 8:40 pm Gina told me I should try to stand in between contractions to stretch my legs. Then during a contraction I would get back in the water and push again. This made a huge difference with bringing you down. Right before you were born Gina said to me, “just 3 more contractions, you can do this.” I remember feeling your sweet head moving down the birth canal. The next contraction came and the coolest moment was when your head popped out and it went from feeling like we were one person to two. I’ll never forget seeing and feeling your sweet head as I waited for the next contraction. On the second contraction from the time Gina said you’d be here within 3, you came. You came with your left arm up by your face, in the back round the song How He Loves by David Crowder Band was playing. Mommy got to catch you as you came out. It was the most incredible moment of my life bringing you into the world. From active labor till you were out it was 3 hours and 24 min. Total pushing was 49 min. Shortly after you came I delivered the placenta. You were born at 8:51 pm in a birth pool in mommy and daddy’s room.
We feel so blessed to have you in our family. You, coming into the world marked the beginning of us becoming parents. We are so in love with our sweet Holland Baker Jones! We spoke over your life and destiny as we wept and laughed thanking God for the gift that you are! You came out weighing 6 pounds even which is what we prayed the whole time. You were 18.5 inches long, your head was 13 inches and your chest was 12 1/8 inches around. You were perfect in every way. Daddy and I prayed so much for your birth before hand and God really honored our hearts desires. Your labor was quick, beautiful and filled with God’s presence.
Best moment of my life meeting you for the first time face to face!
Enjoying our herbal bath
Holland and her daddy bonding
Surprise Breech Home Birth
Eliza’s birth story actually begins months before Eliza’s birthday. When Thad and I found out we were having a baby, we were thrilled – of course! – and checked our calendars to see what was going on around the due date, March 5. I had already signed my opera contract to perform in Don Pasquale, and the last performance of ‘Pasquale was on Sunday, March 7. I considered breaking my contract, since I had no idea how I would feel, how the pregnancy would go, and whether I’d be able to perform in any of the shows, much less make it to the end of the run. After talking with the musician’s union representative, however, I decided not to quit Pasquale. I would just sing as much as I could, and fulfill my contract to the best of my ability! As the months went on, and my pregnancy progressed, I was pleased to feel really healthy and relatively energetic. Whenever anyone would ask my due date, I’d say, “early March – we’re shooting for March 8!” When we got into 2010, Thad’s job responsibilities increased, and a very important meeting with the CEO was scheduled for March 4. That gave me all the more incentive to shoot for a birthday after the due date. Early in the pregnancy we decided to have a homebirth. I interviewed a few midwives and found one I really felt “connected” with – Sarah Jones. I started chiropractic care in the second trimester, went to prenatal yoga classes, and was diligent about my vitamins and diet. I had looked forward to being pregnant for years, and I wasn’t going to take it lightly! Thad and I read many books about pregnancy and birth, and we followed the midwife’s instructions and advice nearly to a “T.” I found a wonderful doula, Delilah Ray, to assist me with the birth. I went to all of my appointments religiously, tried belly mapping to make sure the baby was in position, and sat on the birth ball every day to encourage proper positioning. The chiropractor assured me that the baby was head-down, and two midwives confirmed it. I practiced my relaxation techniques, ordered the birth supplies and readied the apartment. I was ready! March 5 came and went. On March 7, I sang through the final Don Pasquale show. An opera colleague brought me cupcakes, which he jokingly “guaranteed” would start labor. (He had brought cupcakes for another colleague, whose wife then went into labor that evening.) I ate half of a chocolate and half of a vanilla cupcake after the show, while Thad played hockey. Thad came home, and we had one of those married couple “discussions” about how helpful he would actually be during labor. I think I was starting to get a little nervous, and was just letting off some steam. We kissed and made up, and went to bed around 1 a.m. At 2:16 a.m. I woke up with pains in my thighs. Frustrated, I got up to go to the bathroom (why not, since I was awake anyway?). I tried to go back to sleep, but couldn’t get comfortable. My legs just hurt too much! About an hour later I conceded that I could be in labor, and made up the guest bed as I’d been instructed. Contractions got intense pretty quickly, and I had to stop moving to lean over or get on my hands and knees to breathe through them. I tried to time them, but they were sporadic and didn’t always seem to have a start and end. And was it possible that they were lasting over a minute? I didn’t want to bother Thad, since I knew he would need his sleep, but I thought I would text message Sarah and Delilah to give them some warning and to ask about the bloody show (which was more show-y than I had expected). Delilah asked if I would need her before she was able to get the kids to school, and I said no. I finally woke up Thad around 5 a.m. and he started timing the contractions and taking notes and pictures. The photo of me lumbering around like a gorilla in his ESPN t-shirt and boxers (not much else fit!) is one for the family album. I called my mom to tell her that this was the real deal, but had to hang up as another contraction started. Thad took over texting Delilah and Sarah, and somehow our lines got crossed (or I miscommunicated) and Thad told Delilah that I was ready for her after all. Once she arrived (at 7:20 a.m.), I felt really badly, because I knew she’d had to rush her kids to school and I didn’t want to be “that client,” who got her there too early and then sent her home again. Delilah began right away applying pressure to my legs, which immediately helped the leg pain, although they continued to hurt through the entire labor. And almost as soon as she arrived, my water broke! I had completely forgotten about that aspect of labor. We checked the fluid, and it was clear. There was another gush of water, and I felt a “kerchunk,” as though the baby had just moved down an inch or so. When Sarah arrived shortly after, she wanted to check my cervix. But when we prepared to do that, we saw lots of thick meconium! Poor Delilah told Sarah at least twice, “If that had been there when we looked I would have told you! That wasn’t there before!” Sarah checked me. FULLY DILATED and +2 station! At 8:40! And…that wasn’t a head that Sarah felt. It was the baby’s little bum – hence the meconium. By this point I was concentrating too intently to process what a breech baby would mean for our homebirth plans. I knew that Sarah would send us to the hospital if it was necessary, but I also knew that as long as the baby was bum-down, a vaginal birth was possible. I also knew that if we went to the hospital, a cesarean was a certainty. Sarah told me that she wanted me to get in the tub to slow down contractions. “We’re going to breathe this baby down, rather than push it,” she said. With every contraction there was more meconium. I joked that the baby’s nickname was going to be Little Turd. Sarah called another midwife with a lot of experience with breech births to come assist. Donna arrived around 9:30, and the other assistant midwife, Angela, arrived a little later. To me, the next four hours or so were all the same. I was mostly in the tub, with Delilah always at my side or pressing on my legs during a contraction. She must have been extremely worn out by the end of the day! Thad sat with me for most of the time as well, only leaving to get more juice or water, or to confer with the midwives. (I didn’t know it until after the birth, but Thad had to sign paperwork acknowledging the risks of a breech homebirth.) I moaned and groaned, sometimes feeling pukey, sometimes falling asleep between contractions, but doing my best just to breathe and not push. I complained, we all prayed, and the hours passed slowly. I had no idea whether it was morning still or night yet. Around 1 p.m., Sarah instructed me to bear down a little with the next contractions. Finally, some action! I continued to try to bear down for the next couple of hours, without actually “pushing.” We moved from the tub to the bed, since I was really sick of the tub and nothing was happening in there anyway. Delilah started spooning yogurt into my mouth between contractions. I was not in the mood for yogurt at all, but my opinion wasn’t the most important thing. I was getting pretty tired (remember, only an hour of sleep the night before!) and she knew that I needed the energy. Finally sometime around 3:30(?) someone said they could see the baby’s bottom and now I could start pushing in earnest. I was nervous, and I still didn’t have that urge to push that I had expected, but I gave it my best. It took a few contractions and instructions before I got the hang of it, but pretty soon I looked down and saw the strangest sight I could have imagined. I knew there was a baby’s bottom, but I had no idea if what I was looking at was butt-crack or girly parts or boy parts! I had never seen a breech birth, so I had no idea that the body comes out at a very odd-looking angle. At some point people started referring to the baby as “her.” (Side note: I am still slightly disappointed that I never got the climactic “IT’S A GIRL!” that I expected. Maybe I did and I was too out of it.) The Little Turd-ette was STILL pooping with contractions and at one point even peed! With Thad at my head and the midwives and Delilah down south, I was hoisted to the edge of the bed for better positioning as Sarah guided the baby out. Moving while you have half a baby hanging out of you is really uncomfortable and awkward. Sarah instructed me to stop pushing while she pulled the legs free (another very weird sight). Time to push again. At this point I was saying, “Just pull her out! Pull her out of me!” Someone told me (probably Delilah) that this was MY baby and I was going to have to do the work! So, with some very unladylike grunts and screams (while I thought about how sore my voice was going to be and how I hoped I wasn’t doing any permanent damage), and with Sarah’s maneuvering, we got the baby’s arms and shoulders out. At this point I was pretty worn out and wanted to take a break. Donna, one of Sarah’s assisting midwives, got right in my face and said, very seriously, something like, “If you were ever going to push, now is the time to do it. Push this baby out NOW.” So I did, with Sarah maneuvering the baby’s head in the right position. At 4:20 pm, Eliza Lorraine was born! She was placed on my stomach, but she wasn’t breathing yet. I later found out that this is common with breech births, and that Sarah was prepared for it, but I was terrified and numb all at once. The umbilical cord was still pumping and Eliza’s heart rate was normal, so Sarah did mouth-to-mouth and suctioned Eliza’s lungs, and we all prayed and prayed. I remember praying, “God, you know this little girl better than I do and you love her even more than I do. Help her breathe now!” After what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only seconds, she started breathing. And then she seemed to realize that her world had changed, and she started crying. Sweet, sweet music to our ears! I don’t remember much about the next few hours. People cleaned up, I nursed Eliza, Thad and I stared at her in awe and at each other in disbelief. Eliza and I shared an herbal bath, which she loved, and she had her newborn exam. Thad put on her first diaper and dressed her, we nursed some more, and the midwives and Delilah left after making sure that our new family was settled and as prepared as we could be for the days ahead. Thad and I stayed up for a couple more hours watching our wonderful daughter, and at last we all fell asleep. We really couldn’t have asked for a better birth. We feel truly blessed to have been able to have the homebirth we wanted. It was a beautiful day. Testimony for Sarah When I met Sarah, I knew I had found the midwife I wanted. She is a truly special woman – warm, caring, energetic, and with a certain “glow” about her that comes from her confidence in herself and from her trust in God. Choosing a midwife can be a daunting task, especially for a first-time mom. A midwife is someone who will ask you intimate questions, and will want to know minute details about your life: your diet, your exercise, your emotional well-being, etc. I was looking for someone I could imagine sharing my life with for the next nine months or so, and Sarah was definitely that person. I felt that Sarah was nearly as excited about my baby as I was, and she always had time to listen to my concerns and answer my husband’s many questions. When our baby was a surprise breech, she didn’t hesitate – she knew what she was doing and we proceeded safely with the home birth. I am so grateful that God placed Sarah in my life for the birth of my daughter!
Dallas Fort Worth home birth with the Croys
I was planning a home birth with my first baby, William, but towards the end, my midwife was getting nervous about my blood pressure and swelling and said we’d have to have the baby at the birth center. I wasn’t thrilled about that prospect, but I agreed. Then in the last month she started getting really nervous. My baby was presenting breech and would not turn. At three weeks to go we met with Dr. Cummings, the doctor who our midwife used as a backup, who attempted to externally turn William. Unfortunately, his attempts were fruitless as were ours – lying upside-down on the ironing board, daddy reading down low to the baby, trying to make the baby follow a light, using an icepack to try to encourage the baby down . . . Nothing worked! He stubbornly refused to move into the correct position. Our midwife said she was uncomfortable attempting a first-time delivery that was breech, and transferred us to Dr. Cummings’ care. I went into labor two weeks (to the day) early, showed up to the hospital dilated only two centimeters, had my water broken, was given Demerol for pain (which made me unbelievably loopy, uncommunicative, and didn’t get rid of the pain), Pitocin to encourage contractions after the Demerol slowed down labor, and vwa-la! 21 hours later I delivered our son, William Alexander Croy! It wasn’t the birth I’d planned or hoped for, but I do give thanks to God for leading us to a doctor who was willing to deliver a breech vaginally. I would never have had the courage to attempt a vaginal delivery after having a c-section so I am eternally grateful!
So. . . . when I found out I was pregnant again, I wanted to have a home birth. At only a couple of weeks into my pregnancy I started researching midwives in our area. I found that there were lots and lots who went from one end of the midwife spectrum to the other. Nurse-midwives who only delivered in hospitals to midwives who encouraged having your baby with no help outside help at all unless absolutely necessary.
I met with probably half a dozen ladies. Some were too far to agree to a home birth others had a policy where you got the midwife who was “on duty” when you went into labor. No one seemed quite what I was hoping for, and I almost didn’t keep my appointment with Sarah Jones at the Gentle Beginnings Birth Center because I was sure I was going to be disappointed again. But afterwards I saw God’s guiding hand in my choice because I decided to give her a chance and met with her. She was so wonderful. She seemed quite young, several years my junior but very confident and caring, and so very sweet and happy to sit and answer question after question that I put to her. The birth center was a lovely place, and I had a hard time deciding between birthing at home or there because it was so nice (I decided against because I couldn’t imagine driving for an hour while in labor). Sarah was wonderful at every one of my prenatal visits and seemed as excited and full of wonder as I was every time we heard my little son’s heartbeat! We were even able to meet with a sonographer at the birth center and see our little guy. Sarah encouraged me to stay fit and eat well (although I have to admit the food diary just about drove me nuts – as hard as I tried to “get enough protein” and “drink enough water” I never felt like I was quite doing enough – no offense Sarah. ) Again in the last few months my blood pressure started rising, and I started to experience some swelling. Sarah advised me to take Gotu Kola Complex, and I’m here to tell you, that stuff WORKS! When I ran out, my swelling got worse very quickly, but when I started taking it again I saw improvement within a few hours!
I had Braxton-Hicks contractions from about 4 months on out, steadily getting stronger as I went along, but I wasn’t at all concerned because I had experienced the same thing with William. My husband, Alex, and I went on a week and a half “baby-moon” in Maine when I was seven months pregnant. We relaxed and hiked and had some lovely alone time. Sarah went to visit her parents in China for a few weeks when I was at 7 ½ months, and left me in the very compassionate hands of her associate, Christy. It was excellent to meet with Christy because she was supposed to be Sarah’s assistant at our birth. I was very happy to learn that she was a kindred spirit, and we seemed to get on wonderfully at our first meeting.
On Wednesday, December 3, (one week after Thanksgiving, less than a week after my 29th birthday, and more than two weeks before my due date of December 18) we decided to go Christmas tree shopping. Alex said that if we didn’t get it soon I would go and have the baby, and he’d have to decorate it all on his own. So while we decorated our house and trees with multi-colored Christmas lights and shopped for a tree I experienced some very strong contractions. I had to squat down and breathe through several of them in between decorating. I kept thinking, “maybe this is it!” But I didn’t want to jump the gun, and sure enough, the contractions went away with a warm bath. Thursday morning, afternoon, and evening went by without more than the regular Braxton-Hicks, and Friday morning I wasn’t expecting anything spectacular, but just to be sure, I called up my friend who’d given birth a few months previously and asked if she might loan me her birth pool. Several people I know had used one and said it helped immensely with the pain. She said sure, and at about 3:30 in the afternoon she brought it over, and I helped her unload it into the garage. Our bigger boys, who are about the same age, wanted to play, so she stayed for a bit, and I was enjoying her camaraderie so much that when her husband called her to let her know he was on his way home, I told her to tell him to come on over, and I’d fix them dinner. So he did, and I did, and when Alex got home we all feasted on quiche and fresh tomatoes and egg custard!
After they went home we decided it was high time to decorate our tree! So we got to work on it, and by the time we were done, my back was killing me, and I spent an hour relaxing and trying to work the kinks out of my back by lying on the couch. We went to bed, but after several hours of trying get comfortable, I decided those weren’t kinks and no amount of relaxing was going to get rid of them. I woke Alex at 11:00 PM, and told him I thought we’d have a baby tomorrow, and I called Sarah to give her a heads up. She told me to try to get some sleep and called me if things progressed.
I tried to rest. I honestly did! But that baby didn’t have resting on his mind. The contractions kept getting stronger and coming very regularly every 10 or so minutes and at about 1 AM to tell her that I was pretty sure this was it. She said to try to rest between contractions and call her when the contractions got to be about five minutes apart. At about four I called her again and told her I was ready for her to come, and she said she would be on her way as soon as she could get her things together. I called my sister, Paige, who lives about an hour away, and told her I was ready for her to come get William. At about five Sarah showed up. She checked my vitals and the baby’s position and said, “yep, you’re in labor.” Paige showed up and after I gave him a distracted hug and kiss goodbye she tenderly took Liam off with her. Sarah was wonderfully calm and quiet and caring as I paced from our bedroom to the hall then the kitchen and back to our room. She would quietly ask if I was having a contraction and time it. Alex was in the kitchen putting the birth pool together and getting it hooked up to the sink. After a while I couldn’t handle the contractions on my own anymore, and whenever I’d have one Alex would come to me, and we would kneel down together, and he would help me breathe through them. Sarah checked me again sometime in there and said that I was progressing nicely and in good time. Christy showed up around at about 7 or 8. I think I got into the birth pool for the first time sometime around 9ish, after I got to about 7 centimeters, and we were pretty sure it wouldn’t slow down labor. The water felt amazing, and I was still lucid enough, and “modest” enough, that I insisted on putting on my bathing suit. After a bit I got out and Alex and I attempted to walk around the block, and I’m not sure but I don’t think we even made it to the end of the block. It was really cold, and I felt conspicuous when I had to kneel down on the sidewalk to get through my contractions. After our walk I got back in the pool, and around ten in the morning Christy started cooking the after-birth herbs and getting towels and washcloths warm. I was out of it enough that I didn’t realize it, but Alex later said that they were expecting the birth fairly soon at that point. I remember getting a little annoyed with Sarah when she started talking to me during contractions and asking her to quit talking. After the contraction ended I apologized, and she said not to apologize but to feel free to tell her what I needed. If I hadn’t been soaking wet and in pain I would have hugged her. I needed to hear that just then. I also remember asking Christy to take the herbs out because the smell was making me sick. All this just made them more sure that baby was going to arrive soon.
But then . . . Sarah started wondering how things were progressing, and when she checked I was still only at 7 centimeters! Oh, I thought I would cry. She and Christy went off and chatted a bit, and when Sarah came back she said that at this time they had to tell me that we needed to make a decision. I had progressed so little in the last few hours I think by then it was about 2 in the afternoon) due to the baby not being fully engaged in the birth canal (the little stinker had backed up and was trying to come out at an angle) that I could either: transfer to the hospital (near tears), drink a bit of wine and try to stop labor and call them back when I was more rested, or see if I could go to a chiropractor for an adjustment and get the baby moving. I really, really did not want to transfer to the hospital because I was sure I would end up with a caesarian. We couldn’t get in touch with a chiropractor here in our town, and mine was an hour away and off for the day. So we opted for the wine and relaxation. It did help me to relax, and Alex said I slept pretty hard in between contractions, and when I woke up they said they had gotten in touch with Dr. Shane (my chiropractor), and he had agreed to come up and give me an adjustment so long as there was someone here to watch his little boy who he’d have to bring along! Praise God for Dr. Shane and his willingness to come! While he was on his way, I got out of the tub, and Alex helped me do some exercises to try to move baby down and get labor going again. At this point I was at a really low place emotionally. Sarah came into my room where I was laboring (and suffering so much!) She knelt beside me, and encouraged me in her tender way, and then asked so sweetly if she could pray with me. I said, “Yes. Please!” It was such a perfect thing for her to do. I needed that so much just then. I had been praying in my head, but just about all I could manage was, “Dear God, help me!” She closed her eyes and held my hand and simply asked the Lord to be with me, and to give me the strength and courage to continue and to help baby to move so that I could deliver him. It was such a simple prayer, but it was said with such sincerity and love and compassion. It really moved me, and I felt strengthened and encouraged after it.
Not long after that Dr. Shane arrived, and he was so great! When I asked how I should be for the adjustment he said, “You just do what you need to, and I’ll work around you.” So while I stood or kneeled he worked on me a bit. After a while, Sarah checked me, and said I was progressing again. Dr. Shane adjusted me (and baby) some more, and after a while said baby was good to go! Sarah checked the baby and me, and said I was at nine or so, and I was really feeling the urge to bear down. This was a totally new sensation to me. I had not felt it at all with Liam. Sarah said there was still a bit of cervical lip, and I needed to resist pushing if I could. She told me to blow out my lips like a horse to help combat the need to push. I felt like an idiot (even at that stage), but man, it worked! She got the lip out of the way, and for the next 30 minutes or so I knelt on the bed leaning into and on Alex. Thank you, Alex, for you strong arms supporting me and your tender hands holding me, and you encouraging words whispering in my ear! Thank you! Christy and Sarah kept urging me and encouraging me, and finally after what seemed a lifetime they said they could see his head. But then, oh then . . . Christy said I needed to turn on my side because baby couldn’t get out. Oh, my word, trying to turn when baby was partly out was just misery! But I managed, and Christy held my leg, Sarah encouraged, and Alex held my hand, and after a while I started to see my baby’s head coming out! It was terrifying and wonderful all at once. I pushed and pushed, and thought I was splitting in half. And finally with Sarah’s hands pulling him, and my body pushing him with all its might, our baby was brought into this world! They laid him on my chest and tried to get him to nurse. I didn’t care what he or anyone did, I just relaxed. I guess my whole body relaxed because soon (it was really a couple of hours) Sarah said I really needed to try to deliver the placenta. I did what I could to encourage the baby to nurse. Sarah gave me a couple of shots of pitocin, and then threatened to give me a catheter. I didn’t want that, and I guess it was enough of an incentive to get my brain to tell my body to get that thing out of me because it did! Then finally I was in my “mom soup” with my tiny new beautiful son. He was 8 pounds 5 oz and 21 inches long. It was the most wonderful, horrible, exciting, miserable day of my life! But it was so empowering and inspiring! It made me so grateful for a wonderful husband and birth helpers! Thank you, God!
Courtney’s Journey to Motherhood
HOSPITAL OR BIRTH CENTER…THAT IS THE QUESTION.
I can remember researching birth centers almost as soon as I got married. I remember that when I first heard of them, I was very taken with the idea and immediately intrigued about them. I’ve never really liked hospitals…they smell funny (though the irony is that I actually was a biology major in college for a semester, planning on going into medicine). After just a little bit of research, I knew immediately that a birth center was what I wanted to use to have my children. It seemed like the best of both worlds! A blend of medicine with a very homelike feel! My mother-in-law had 3 out of four of her kids at home with a midwife, so my husband was and is very comfortable with midwifery and natural birth. My own mom didn’t have an epidural with my oldest sister (though my twin and I were taken by c-section so of course medicinal intervention was needed there). So, I knew that from my parents and his parents, we wouldn’t have much trouble gaining “permission.” (Not that we needed permission, but it’s nice not to have to convince). Well, when I got pregnant, we were living in Chicago, having to go through private health care because my husband was a graduate student and I was working for a non-profit with no benefits. Little did I know that the private health insurance company would not pay a dime for any prenatal tests or labs or doctor visits!!! After my initial appointment and ultrasound, we already owed the hospital over $4,000. I remember getting the bill and in between sobs, telling my husband that we couldn’t afford to deliver this child. At that point, I stopped going to the doctor. I remember getting reassurances from friends who told me that all the doctors checked for at these visits was my weight, baby’s growth, and blood pressure, so not to worry. However, as a first-time mom, I wanted everything to be normal. I wanted to be as stereotypical as possible! When you try a recipe out for the first time, you don’t tweak. When pregnant for the first time, you follow the plan! Tweaking should be left for the experienced.
We moved to Dallas that summer and when I arrived I was already 6 months pregnant with no doctor, insurance, or plan. Thankfully, my husband got a job very quickly but even then, the insurance plan wasn’t great, and I just didn’t trust insurance companies to treat us fairly. From my research, I knew that things might not go ‘by the book’ in a hospital, and anyone who touched me who wasn’t under our plan, we would be paying for out of pocket. That concern, along with not knowing what medicines and interventions would be covered, convinced me to look into birth centers again. I found a couple that really excited me, so one day, my good friend and I went a-hunting. We weren’t too taken with the first one, so with crossed fingers, called up the second to see if we could stop by without an appointment. I met Sarah that day and my friend and I were both taken with how calm she made me feel, as well as the professional, clean, polished, charming…I could go on forever, but to sum it all up…Gentle Beginnings Birth Center was a lovely place, and I knew I wanted to have my baby there.
When my friend and I got back, I was so excited, but she was very nervous. She spoke with her mother (a lovely woman who I like a lot) who just happens to be an ICU nurse. The concerns and fears came pouring in. And not just from my friends. People at church, in the grocery line, everywhere it seemed, were interested in where I was giving birth, who was delivering, why would I want to do it without medication, what if there were complications…and on and on. I finally called Sarah and asked for some advice. We met up and I gave her all the scary scenarios I had heard. She answered every one of them calmly and without surprise. I could tell that she was trained with what to do in every one of those situations and that I and my baby would be very safe in her hands. My husband and I decided that Gentle Beginnings fit our picture of what birth should be (a natural occurrence that can become a medical situation, but does not start off that way, and should therefore be aided not intervened or prohibited at the will of any person), what it should cost, and how every member of our family and friends should experience the arrival of our first baby. Thanks to Sarah and her team, I had the answers and the confidence that I could do this, even though I’d never done it before. I could safely deliver my baby, and that they would be there to take care of everything (from hot oil compresses to taking pictures to massage). My prenatal experience turned from scarily non-stereotypical to excitingly-unusual…at least in this day and age. I went from unprepared to uniquely aware of my body and my baby. They redeemed my time for me and for that I will always be grateful.
THE LABOR STORY
It all started around 3:45am on December 7th. I woke up and had to go to the bathroom (as was typical at that time in my life…I had to go every 2 hours or so). Well, sorry if this is too much information, but when I went, I noticed that I was bleeding…quite a bit. Needless to say, I panicked. I went straight to the computer and researched ‘third trimester bleeding.’ What I found was not helpful and mostly terrifying–everything from placenta abrevia to miscarriage. I texted Sarah right away, laid down on the couch, and told myself that if she didn’t respond within 15 minutes I would call her. I not-so-patiently waited until 4:00am and then called Sarah. Waking her up, I told her what was happening and she said not to worry but that if I was still bleeding tomorrow, we would schedule an ultrasound to make sure things were okay. I also told her I was worried because I couldn’t get the baby to move. She suggested drinking a cold glass of water and eating some fruit to wake him up. Sure enough, a few minutes after eating and drinking, the baby began jumping around which caused me to calm down. Sarah then texted me a few more questions which led her to believe that I was indeed in pre-labor. Not wanting to wake Michael up with my tossing and turning, I went and laid down in the second bedroom to try and get some rest. I’m not positive of the time anymore, but sometime in the 5:00 hour I woke up with cramps. I went and got the hot pad that I had bought for laboring, heated it up and laid back down…and promptly got rid of the hot pad. That silly thing did absolutely nothing and only annoyed me more. I then decided that I was definitely having contractions and went to the living room to start Contraction Master. I was really confused, because starting from the beginning I was having contractions that lasted anywhere from 20 seconds to 2 and a half minutes and were anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes apart. That’s not what I had read they would be like! They were supposed to be irregular at the beginning, but moving closer together as labor progressed. Mine were so irregular but pretty intense right from the start. I labored like this for the next few hours and waited until I heard Michael’s alarm go off at 8am. At this point, I had just had a couple of really painful contractions, so I was glad it was time for him to get up. I had already decided that we weren’t going to church that day. I woke him up by walking into the room and calmly saying, “Michael, I need you. I think I’m in labor.” He quickly jumped up and came to me, immediately comforting me as I’m sure I was looking panicked and scared.
Having Michael’s help during the next uncertain hours was wonderful. He helped me decide to call Sarah and see what we should do rather than immediately calling family. Sarah suggested I either go for a walk or take a bath. Walking was NOT what I wanted to do, so I opted for the bath, hoping to regulate the contractions and get some rest. Well, I regulated the contractions, but did not get anymore rest. While I was in the bath, Michael decided to shower and get ready for the busy day. I think I lasted 10 minutes (maybe) in the tub before having to get out and go lay down. The contractions got strong and VERY regular. By the time Michael was out and we were using contraction master again, my contractions were every minute to minute and a half lasting at least a minute, most of them longer. I discovered that the best way for me to labor was on my hands and knees. This made contractions very manageable, but unfortunately, any time I changed positions to rest my arms and legs, I caused another contraction by moving. The contractions, along with the exhaustion, made me very nauseous, so I ended up throwing up (sorry if you’re queasy) in bed. I moved to the second bedroom again while Michael cleaned up and gave Sarah a call. It was around 9:30 I think at this point, and Sarah gave Michael a few things to find out from me, only I wasn’t much help apparently. I could hear everything he was saying, but come to find out later, I wasn’t responding. It’s funny to think back on this, because I really do remember him talking to me and me thinking my responses, but I also remember him saying very tensely but calmly, “Courtney, Sarah is asking me questions and it’s really important that you tell us the answers. I need to know when your contractions are starting and when they’re over.” I never responded to him because I was trying to hard to figure out how to respond. First, I wasn’t always sure when they started or when they were over, because sometimes they were right on top of each other. Second, I couldn’t figure out what signal to give. Should I tap the bed? Say “it’s starting”? Say “Now”? All of these sounded so hard to get out and communicate. Then, a contraction began and I looked at him and said, ‘okay’. He must have read my face, because he started the clock and then stopped it when I said ‘okay’ again. What a brilliant code I came up with! After a few more of these and one more trip to the bathroom for me, Michael called Sarah to let her know. When she found out how close the contractions were and that I was getting the chills and throwing up, she told Michael to give her 15 minutes and then to leave for the birth center. Michael came to me (where I was hanging over the toilet–a REALLY good place to labor, by the way. Perfect height for kneeling and helped me save my arms from having to hold myself up) and told me it was time to go. I was able to tell him that the birth bag had been packed, but that there was a list of last-minute items to grab. While he finished gathering supplies, I continued to labor in the bathroom. When he said it was time to go, I moved to the living room and kneeled next to the coffee table while he answered a couple of calls from people wondering where to go to meet up with us. Everyone was surprised it was happening so quickly. While kneeling in the living room, I had my first ‘urge to push’ and got a little scared thinking, ‘this is not where I want to be!’ It took us a bit to get to the car because anytime I moved I had a contraction, so I had to walk while contracting, which wasn’t easy. Also not easy? The ride to the birth center…let’s just sum that part up with ‘OUCH!’
When we got to the birth center, we saw Jesse and Kelly’s car. I remember seeing them and smiling at them, but Kelly says that she wasn’t sure if I knew they were there, so obviously my smile wasn’t very expressive. I found out later that Kelly asked Michael if I knew they were there and he responded, “I don’t know. I’m not even sure she can hear me.” Strangely enough, I was very aware. Everything I had read regarding labor led me to believe that I would dip into what they called ‘Labor Land’ and I wouldn’t be as aware. WRONG. I remember questions, looks, thoughts…such as “I hope Kelly doesn’t hear me. She’ll never want to do this” or “I forgot to renew my library books yesterday. Now they’re overdue” or “That was an ineffective contraction. I need to do better on the next one to make it really work.” Seriously, those were some real thoughts. I was just REALLY REALLY in my own head.
When I got the center, Sarah checked me out and I was already 8 cm dilated. PRAISE GOD! I remember having to concentrate really hard at these last contractions, but I also remember thinking that I imagined it to be much worse. I was definitely ‘vocalizing’ very loudly, but it really helped with pain management if I did it properly. Michael was AMAZING. He seemed to be exactly where I needed him to be and to say the exact right thing. I am in awe that he would know me so well that he could serve me in such capacity with me not talking to him since around 9:30 that morning. At this point, I also remember thinking that the birth center had been the perfect choice for us. In a hospital, I don’t think I would have been able to labor on my hands and knees for so long and Michael wouldn’t have been able to be right there in the bed with me, holding my hand. If I tried laboring on my back, the pain was too much, but hands and knees allowed me to labor effectively, without pain overcoming me. From this point on, time gets really fuzzy. It felt like it was over quickly (but not quickly enough), when in fact, several hours past during this time. When it came time to push, Michael got behind me on the bed (another reason I’m glad we were there…I still remember the feeling of leaning back into my husband’s shoulder to push and hearing him say “oh wow! I can see his head!” or “You’re so close!” or other little encouragements), and I leaned against him for the 45 minutes it took. This part was MUCH HARDER than I expected it to be and am very glad that I don’t have to do it again for quite awhile. But like I said, 45 minutes and it was over.
When he was out, they very quickly wrapped him in a towel and pretty much dumped him onto my chest (gently, but it happened so fast!). Michael and I just sat there for a few minutes in awe of this baby. I then looked up and asked Sarah if it was a boy or girl. She just smiled and said we would have to look. So we unwrapped the towel and discovered our little boy! We were both very surprised since we kept telling everyone we thought it would be a girl. I still remember the cheer when Christy, the assistant midwife walked out to Jesse and Kelly to tell them Christopher was born. Michael and I both laughed. After I had recovered a bit and Topher had nursed some, they let everyone come in. By this point, my parents and Christine (my sister) had joined the Cones at the center. It was perfect. In his first moments of life, he got to experience love from some (not all) of the people that we care about most. Then they set up the computer so that Michael’s parents could iChat with us and see Christopher. How awesome are these times in which we live?! I then got to go take an herb bath (amazing feeling!!!!) with Christopher while Sarah and Christy ordered me lunch from Panera. It all felt so natural and normal and joyous. After everyone had been checked out declared ‘good to go’ we all left back to home. I think I got home around 5:30ish, so from beginning of labor to arrival back home…almost 14 hours. NOT BAD! It was exactly the birth I had wanted and the ability to come home and sleep in my own bed (if only for a couple hours at a time) was indescribable. The care I received from Sarah and Christy goes beyond words and I will be ever grateful to them for taking such good care of Michael, Christopher, my family, my friends, and me. It was just perfect!
When I first heard about Sarah, I was in Beijing, China, facing with anxiety the delivery of my first child in the coming months. Of course I was to give birth in an international hospital, but nevertheless, being so far from friends and family, surrounded by people who barely understand English, would have made anyone nervous. Sarah was no less than a lifebuoy for all the pregnant women there. From the start I was impressed with the amount of knowledge and experience in such a young midwife! Then she told me about her work in the Philippines, I was even more willing to hire her.
My husband and I first met Sarah when attendng her pre-natal course at the hospital. I knew the course would be helpful to my husband, but I discovered more benefits for me. It opened my eyes on all the possible way of giving birth. I felt I finally knew enough to choose a natural delivery. I knew I’d need the help of Sarah in this one, as natural deliveries are not so common in this country.
Then it all started in the heat of a night, as I broke waters during my sleep at 1 am… (you might want to use a waterproof mattress protector just in case). The poor soon-to-be father had been in bed for barely an hour after a late night work! Thanks to all the precious information given by Sarah, we did not panic at all. I stayed lying trying to relax, and one hour later mild contractions started. This is the moment when you cannot help becoming a little nervous… So we text-messaged Sarah and felt so grateful having someone to talk to in the middle of the night! She comforted us and explained quietly at what stage we should call her back, and that she would check on us the next morning. In the end, thanks to Sarah’s experience and guidance, we waited quietly at home, I even went out walking a few times. And what could have 36 terrible hours waiting in a hospital room shrank to only a rough 24 h – more than enough if I may!
After checking in, when things finally got serious, Sarah partnered very efficiently with the Hospital Chinese staff. We could rely on her totally and just focus on the birth instead of struggling to understand the staff and the medical issues. Because we knew she was there to protect our interests. My husband also was exhausted, and worried: Sarah’s presence and support had been very important for him, and helped him support me better. Although she didn’t get much sleep either! Unfortunately the dilatation was not happening fast enough. The OB and the staff had been waiting for as long as they could, but safety comes first: so I was injected ocytocine (oxytocine?) to speed up the contractions. It worked very well and I had such “beautiful” contractions I could not handle the pain and exhaustion any more and asked for epidural. Sarah, again, totally backed up my choice and made sure the staff understood the request. She comforted me and my husband so well during these tough hours, I don’t know how I would have gotten through without her.
I actually think that in most other Chinese hospitals, without the help of the right midwife and the right doctor, I would have end up with a C-section. Instead, I pushed my daughter out in this world and that is such a beautiful and intense feeling you can only call it a miracle. And there she was, our tiny little lotus, so beautiful with her eyes wide open… and hungry! Sarah was here again to support a good start in breastfeeding, patiently repositioning the baby and showing me the way.
Sarah’s help made a huge difference for us. Now we live on two different continents… but I hope to have a second child in the coming years, and my first wish is to find on the way a midwife as competent, kind and supportive as Sarah.