Knowing Birth Series: Jenny of Heavenly Treasure (4)

knowing birth

WHAT IS KNOWING BIRTH?

Here is the link to the original Knowing Birth post.

There are so many books and studies claiming to know the truth about birth, but what I’ve found in my conversations with mothers and birth professionals are so many unique experiences surrounding each birth. A book or study can’t possibly take into account the actual voices of individuals. So what better way to find out than to simply ask.

That led me to what I call Knowing Birth interviews. I have come up with a handful of questions that, moms, dads and care providers will answer. I’ll then take their answers and put them directly on this blog.

The only requirement is honesty and openness, and maybe a few pictures too. If you would like to share your experience and answers to the following questions, please email me at doulamegan@gmail.com and I will get the questionnaire to you directly. Anyone can participate and there’s no judgment from me about your answers. I promise to keep a close eye on the comments and keep ‘em clean.

THIS WEEKS INTERVIEW IS THANKS TO…

Jenny, from the blog Heavenly Treasure. Jenny shares her family’s joyful walk in the Christian faith, recipes and beautiful family stories. To read her birth story (an amazingly quick surprise unassisted birth) you can visit Jasmin’s Birth Story.

Family Photo, baby Jasmin 2.5 months
Family Photo, baby Jasmin 2.5 months

 

Where did you choose to have your birth and why? What are your feelings about that choice now?

We chose to have our birth at home. My husband was acquainted with a midwife and it just felt natural to do it at home. I didn’t have much knowledge of homebirths but I was getting into a more natural lifestyle so it just fit. Now im soooo glad we went that route!

How did you prepare for your birth?

4 Days Before Birth
4 Days Before Birth

Much prayer! Definitely got much of my strength from God’s word. We watched many videos on youtube of women giving birth. I read Birthing from Within and took the classes, though we didn’t make it to the last class! We also came across Angela Stokes-Monarch having a conscious parenting summit. Through this we found out about unassisted childbirths and put it into prayer though we kept seeing the midwife, but mentally preparing for an unassisted birth.  We also had chiropractic care twice a week, took prenatals, did some yoga, and walking. We also had a lotus birth so we got things ready for that as well.

Who was invited and present at your birth?

At first I wanted everyone to be there! I don’t know why. As it got closer I just wanted my husband and only wanted our midwife to be there when necessary. It just ended up being my husband and I!

If it was not your first birth, please compare/contrast your experiences.

This was our first birth and I hope the next will be exactly the same or better!

What qualifications do you look for in a midwife/OB/primary care provider?

It was definitely a relief that our midwife didn’t push anything on us, listened and respected our wishes. We don’t expect everyone to have our same mentality but at least have an open mind and respect.

What is your ideal relationship with a birth attendant?

jenny 3Ideally just my husband! I’m glad our midwife is awesome and has become a friend. I don’t think I would feel comfortable with anyone else. I did consider having at least my mom there.

If you have received maternity care from both the medical and midwifery models of care, what are the biggest differences? Pros/cons of each?

Do ultrasounds count as medical care? Hahaha if so then I only had one ultrasound and only because the baby was breech for a while and wanted to make sure she had surely turned.

Did you feel adequately informed of your options?

Yes, I feel like we both looked deep enough into every option and possibility, thank God we came across free birthing!

Describe your ideal birth environment at this point in time.

I do kind of wish we would have had the birthing pool, but maybe not because I was having bowel movements the whole time.

How do you feel about the safety of birth in a hospital vs outside of a hospital?

An hour or so, still slimy!
An hour or so, still slimy!

Each has its place. If there’s a need then of course go to the hospital…when necessary. Other than that, outside of the hospital, wherever you’re most comfortable and have everything you need, is the safest.

Is there anything you would change about public policy relating to birth/maternity care? Why/how?

Oh wow! make birth centers, doulas, midwives, etc. the primary care. Publicize home births and midwifery as safest best option for mamas and babies. basically, spread the truth!

What do you feel were the most influential factors surrounding your birth? Why?

God Almighty. He provides all. He guided me on my maternity path perfectly and lovingly. He led me to every single video, book, website, person, that influenced my heart and mind to KNOW that I CAN DO THIS!

Who owns birth?

God Almighty! He gives all mamas the body and power to do this! We own birth! We are fearfully and wonderfully made to be fruitful and multiply. Our Father knows what He’s doing, and He is Faithful to answer our cries, especially while giving birth!

Happy baby! 4 months
Happy baby! 4 months

Want to know more about Jenny?

Check out her blog Heavenly Treasure at heavenlytreasure.net to learn more about Christianity, her family and baby Jasmin’s birth story. Thanks Jenny!

How To Join The Knowing Birth Series

Email me at doulamegan@gmail.com and I’ll send you the questionnaire directly. There are no requirements, only that you have a voice about birth and want to share it openly and honestly.

THANKS FOR FOLLOWING AND BE WELL!

Knowing Birth Series: Dawn of Small Footprint Family (2)

knowing birth

What is knowing birth?

Here is the link to the original Knowing Birth post.

There are so many books and studies claiming to know the truth about birth, but what I’ve found in my conversations with mothers and birth professionals are so many unique experiences surrounding each birth. A book or study can’t possibly take into account the actual voices of individuals. So what better way to find out than to simply ask.

That led me to what I call Knowing Birth interviews. I have come up with a handful of questions that, moms, dads and care providers will answer. I’ll then take their answers and put them directly on this blog.

The only requirement is honesty and openness, and maybe a few pictures too. If you would like to share your experience and answers to the following questions, please email me at doulamegan@gmail.com and I will get the questionnaire to you directly. Anyone can participate and there’s no judgment from me about your answers. I promise to keep a close eye on the comments and keep ‘em clean.

This Weeks Interview Is Thanks To…

Dawn, from the blog Small Footprint Family. Dawn writes about health, nutrition, green living and gardening. Her posts are insightful and her recipes are yummy. Definitely check out her handy work at www.SmallFootprintFamily.com

"Me and Babyzilla! (whose "Big Girl Bed" is the bed she was born on."
“Me and Babyzilla! (whose “Big Girl Bed” is the bed she was born on.”

Where did you choose to have your birth and why? What are your feelings about that choice now?

I chose to have my baby at home in my apartment. I wouldn’t have had it any other way and I am eternally grateful for the experience.

How did you prepare for your birth?

I took Bradley birthing classes with my partner, maintained a strict Brewer diet with prenatal vitamins, received massage, chiropractic and acupuncture often, regularly saw a midwife, and tried not to vomit all the time. I read copiously and worried way too much.

Who was invited and present at your birth?

I had two girlfriends come by during the early part of my labor, but then it was just Papa and me until the very end. We feel birth is a very private experience.

If it was not your first birth, please compare/contrast your experiences.

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What qualifications do you look for in a midwife/OB/primary care provider?

I looked for someone with a good reputation who would come to my home. In Washington, D.C. that gave me about 3 midwives to choose from. My midwife from Maryland was in fact not licensed for homebirth in D.C., since it is not permitted there.

I guess I had an illegal homebirth!

What is your ideal relationship with a birth attendant?

My ideal relationship would be one of support and camaraderie. Someone who can quietly assist, assuage and gently inform during a natural, but scary process.

Ideally, if I had another child, I would want a midwife with more of a background in nutrition, holistic health and/or acupuncture.

If you have received maternity care from both the medical and midwifery models of care, what are the biggest differences? Pros/cons of each?

When I went to the city clinic for prenatal care, I was treated like a number by incompetent nurses, some of whom were downright unprofessional. It was not uncommon to have to wait 2-3 hours to be seen for a scheduled appointment.

After one nurse failed to find a fetal heartbeat on my second visit, she brightly announced to me and Papa that she thought I had miscarried, even though the only sign of it was that she couldn’t find the heartbeat. We had to wait eight days in grief and terror until we could get an ultrasound. The ultrasound merely confirmed that the nurse was incompetent with a stethoscope.

The attending OB/GYN at the clinic was very nice, but overstretched and largely unavailable. She would whiz in and whiz out after answering a few questions. The most frequently she could see me was once every three or four months.

Later in my pregnancy, I went to the emergency room because I couldn’t stop throwing up and needed an IV. In addition to the 6-hour wait, I couldn’t help but feel like I was treated like a machine in need of repair. The doctors and nurses, while nice enough and seemingly competent at the technical skills they were required to perform, seemed oddly detached and dismissive. The place just felt soulless.

I left the allopathic model as quickly as I could find the right midwife, which was a bit of a challenge in Washington, D.C., where the region has some of the highest C-Section rates in the country.

After I hired her, my midwife saw me monthly or more frequently, as needed. She took her time examining me and talking with me, was accessible by phone, and was so relaxed about the birthing process, she put me at ease just with her presence.

She rented us a birthing tub, and helped me through a 63-hour labor that would surely have ended in a Caesarean at the hospital. My baby had her fist trapped beside her ear within my pelvis, and couldn’t turn face down, prolonging my labor greatly. I think I walked a half-mile of stairs trying to get her to turn!

But her heartbeat remained strong, and so the midwife was patient. I delivered her “sunny side up” and despite our best efforts, I had some tearing because I delivered her fist and arm with her head.

Papa caught Babyzilla, and the midwife untangled the cord and helped place her right onto my chest with the cord still attached. She latched on to breastfeed almost right away. Then, a bunch of other stuff happened that I barely remember; there was my newborn baby girl on my chest! I was a mom!

Finally, my midwife did the most amazing thing: She stored my placenta in the freezer, emptied the birthing tub, cleaned my house, fed us all from the food my friends had delivered, and tucked me, Papa and Babyzilla into bed! Wow!

Given the length of my labor, the challenge of my baby’s presentation and the fact that her fist was caught in the birth canal, I would surely have been a C-section in the hospital. But with patience, wisdom and an experienced stethoscope, my midwife enabled me to have the birth I dreamed of.

Did you feel adequately informed of your options?

Yes. I did a lot of homework around having a homebirth. I had no doubts and did everything I could to ensure I had a low-risk pregnancy.

Describe your ideal birth environment at this point in time.

Home.

How do you feel about the safety of birth in a hospital vs outside of a hospital?

I feel that in a hospital I would have had a nightmare birth experience. I am frankly phobic of allopathic doctors and hospitals. I utilize them only when I have an emergency that warrants chemical or surgical intervention, and then I do so reluctantly.  If I had to give birth there, I would have been extremely stressed out, which is not conducive to having babies!

Is there anything you would change about public policy relating to birth/maternity care? Why/how?

Homebirth and birthing centers and prenatal chiropractic and massage should be covered by all insurance plans. (My entire midwife-led birth experience, including prenatal visits cost only $2,500!) Payments to providers should be outcome based, not treatment-based. Birth curricula should be overhauled in every medical school to reflect a new paradigm of birth as a natural process.

What do you feel were the most influential factors surrounding your birth? Why?

The contrast between my conventional medical experience and my experience with a midwife couldn’t be more stark.

For me, a birth experience in a hospital would have been tantamount to torture, and I am so grateful I had no complications that warranted birthing there.

Who owns birth?

Every woman who chooses to give birth owns birth, and no one else. Everyone else should play only a supporting role or get out of the way.

Want To Know More About Dawn?

Check out her blog Small Footprint Family to learn about gardening, nutrition, green living and health. Thanks Dawn!

How To Join The Knowing Birth Series

Email me at doulamegan@gmail.com and I’ll send you the questionnaire directly. There are no requirements, only that you have a voice about birth and want to share it openly and honestly.

Thanks for following and be well!

This post featured on Party Wave Wednesday, Tasty Traditions, Thank Your Body Thursday, Small Footprint Friday

Knowing Birth Series: Megan Alton (1)

knowing birthGuess what? I think pregnancy and birth are so cool. Right now I deal in human birth, but any animal birth thrills me too. My fascination started when I was 4 years old and my brother was born. My mom was always very happy to share her own pregnancy and birth experiences with me and I really feel that her honesty helped pave my road to becoming a doula and birth advocate.

In The Beginning

The first birth I ever saw in live and living color (as opposed to the NOVA: Miracle of Life on TV which I watched countless times as a kid) was when I was in college. My roommate and I had illegal hamsters in our dorm room, Beefcake and Cheesecake, and as hamsters are prone to do, Cheesecake made babies.

One day I noticed she was nested up in a small alcove of their cage, and then birthing of 5 baby hamsters commenced. I was her hamster doula, although I’m sure she wanted me to just go away. It was riveting, and that was just a hamster birth. Eventually I became a doula, I’m in the process of becoming a childbirth educator and since this post, I’ve also become an advocate for out of hospital midwife assisted birth.

It’s Time For The World To Know

Now I have a son and am even more enthralled with other families stories of birth and what they think of birth in general. As something of an anthropological study I decided that I need to interview as many people, who have a relationship with birth, as possible.

There are so many books and studies claiming to know the truth about birth, but what I’ve found in my conversations with mothers and birth professionals is that there are so many unique experiences surrounding each birth. A book or study can’t possibly take into account the actual voices of individuals. So what better way to find out than to simply ask.

Finding Our Voices

That leads me what I’m calling “Knowing Birth” interviews. I have come up with a handful of questions that, hopefully, moms, dads and care providers will answer. I’ll then take their answers and put them directly on this blog.

It’s time to give voice to anyone who has one regarding birth. There are no requirements about the when, type and location of the birth(s) and I also plan on interviewing birth attendants, midwives and doctors to get their unique perspectives.

You know you wanna do it too!

The only requirement is honesty and openness in your answers, and maybe a few pictures too. To set a good example, I’m going first. If you would like to share your experience and answers to the following questions, please email me at doulamegan@gmail.com and I will get the questionnaire to you directly. Anyone can participate and there’s no judgment from me about your answers. I promise to keep a close eye on the comments and keep ’em clean. Now, let’s get started!

Knowing Birth: Megan Alton (that’s me!)

IMG_9657

Where did you choose to have your birth and why? What are your feelings about that choice now?

I chose to have my birth at The Baby Place (now New Beginnings), a birth center in Meridian, Idaho that is run by Certified Midwives. I opted for this location for a few reasons:

  • As a doula I had been to other births there and they were always gentle and beautiful
  • I knew the midwives and that made me very comfortable
  • I’ve always known I was going to have an out of hospital birth, always

My experience was phenomenal. Everything I wanted, caring prenatal visits, gentle guidance, education, personal freedoms and the peace of giving birth there was provided. I had my ideal birth and everything went according to plan (love when that happens). The safety, security and trust that I felt was paramount to having a satisfying birth experience.

How did you prepare for your birth?

I’m a doula and so I had a keen insight into birth long before I got pregnant. My husband and I planned for our child and were thrilled to become pregnant. We took the Hypno Babies childbirth education course and I found the affirmations to be particularly helpful through my pregnancy. I also received acupuncture and chiropractic adjustments on a weekly basis through my pregnancy. I worked as a kindergarten teacher until my 8th month and then took the last 2 months to be pregnant and take it easy. All prenatal exams were provided by my midwives. As for my diet, eh, we ate out a lot and I had a major addiction to Oreos. Next time around I’ll do it Real Food style.

IMG_0272

Who was invited and present at your birth?

My husband and good friend Sarah (my doula). Holly was my primary midwife through my birth however, there were 3 other midwives present for the delivery of my son.

 

If it was not your first birth, please compare/contrast your experiences.

I’ve only had one birth, but compared to the hospital births I’ve attended as a doula, my perception is that my out of hospital birth was calmer and less directed.

What qualifications do you look for in a midwife/OB/primary care provider?

I expect my care provider to have an understanding of (completely) natural pregnancy and birth. Any midwives/doctors that I see are expected to have appropriate credentials from legitimate certifying agencies. I expect my care providers to be active and passionate in their practice.

IMG_0226What is your ideal relationship with a birth attendant?

I’m the consumer. I expect the same of my birth attendants as any customer service provider. What I want for my experience should be central to their care for me and my family. I expect them to treat me with respect and to be open and honest about EVERY SINGLE PROCEDURE and expectation that have of me. In return I promise to educate myself, ask questions and have a respectful open dialogue with them.

If you have received maternity care from both the medical and midwifery models of care, what are the biggest differences? Pros/cons of each?

Personally, I have only ever received maternity care from midwives.

IMG_1820Did you feel adequately informed of your options?

It helped that I knew a ton about birth before I even got pregnant, but yes I felt very informed of my options. When it came time to make choices, they were left to me and my husband. Any question I had were directed to my midwives and we openly discussed pros and cons. It was so nice to be treated as an equal in my healthcare.

Describe your ideal birth environment at this point in time.

Any location out of the hospital. Low lights, warmth, access to water (tub preferably), no access to pain mediation or other birth altering drugs, privacy, soft place to land in between contractions, food/drink on demand, singing/moaning and the ability to vocalize, no separation from baby or family, quiet voices and the confidence of those surrounding me in the process of natural childbirth.

How do you feel about the safety of birth in a hospital vs outside of a hospital?

Obviously, I feel that out of hospital birth is safer than in hospital birth for all normal and healthy pregnancies and births. Due to the lack of pervasive technology, which I believe is a good thing in this case, and the confidence of out of hospital attendants, I believe that in the case of birth less is more. I also know that trained midwives know when problems arise and when pregnancy/birth becomes outside the scope of normal that they will correctly advise mothers when to take their care to a doctor/hospital. I know they always have the best interest of the mother/baby at hand.

Is there anything you would change about public policy relating to birth/maternity care? Why/how?

Midwifery and out of hospital birth should be legal in every state. It should be entirely up to the mother/family how and where they give birth to their babies. This is an issue of reproductive choice. Health insurance should cover ALL costs of ALL births, especially since natural midwife attended birth costs way less than hospital birth. In my opinion, Certified Nurse Midwives should take the place of gynecologists for all (normal) well woman care.

photo (25)What do you feel were the most influential factors surrounding your birth? Why?

Knowing my mom’s birth stories and being very comfortable with birth initially, shaped my view of normal natural birth. Having a supportive husband, who himself was born at home, and a super supportive extended family made it easy to make my maternity care choices. Certainly being a doula and having witnessed out of hospital midwife attended births GREATLY affected my view of how normal and non-interventive birth can be.

Who owns birth?

First and foremost, as sentient beings and keepers of their own bodies, mothers own their individual births. Obviously this comes with the input of the father/partner (assuming they are playing a primary role in care giving). The medical and midwife communities don’t own any woman’s birth experience. Their sole purpose is to provide necessary expert care for the wellbeing of the mother and child.IMG_3036

There you have it! It took me about half an hour to answer the questions honestly and without going into great detail. If you’re interested in being interviewed (anyone is welcome) please email me at doulamegan@gmail.com and I’ll send you the questionnaire and all pertinent information.

Thanks for following and be well!

*Photo credit for all pregnant, newborn and family photos goes to Ashley Romero.

This post featured in Party Wave Wednesday, Thank Your Body Thursday

Bucket List #13 Epiphany

I think the last two days have been a sign for me. Today’s bucket list item was going to be:

13. Champion a cause.

I was feeling optimistic. I was going to give myself some time to think about it (like maybe even years) and then eventually commit to a cause that tugged at my heart and that I felt needed my action. If you read yesterday’s post then you know my feelings towards pregnancy and birth. I did a post about it, my best friend was in labor, it’s been on my mind. Her baby was born early this morning, beautifully, and my day was off to an amazing start. I was elated that my friend got to deliver her baby without a cesarean section and that she’s joined the ranks of mommies everywhere. It had me thinking about how lucky I was to fulfill my own lifelong dream to deliver Porter out of the hospital, with midwives and in the most natural way possible. I was flying high. Then I got the saddest email, of my life. It delivered news that rocked my core in a way that I can’t deny and have never felt before. My cause landed straight into my mailbox, ding!

If you live in the Boise area, you may know about the recent events surrounding our local midwives Coleen and Jerusha Goodwin. I’d say Google it, but I’m not sure the media has portrayed the whole situation without serious bias, and I don’t feel the details about what happened are mine to share. What I do know is that they are not able to practice midwifery in Idaho and have been bankrupted by these recent events. Not only are these local midwives, but they were my midwives, along with a few other beautifully skilled women, whom Coleen and Jerusha trained. The whole situation makes me sad. Not only for my midwives, but for the babies that won’t get to be delivered into their skilled hands and to future midwives who won’t get to apprentice under them. This loss impacts the entire community and the entire midwifery movement. My heart is broken in a way that I’ve never experienced before.

I don’t know what it’s like to have a doctor present at a birth, other than what I’ve seen as a doula. I’m pretty sure that most  folks don’t have a professional relationship their doctor, have them deliver their child and then take a walk in the park sharing scones and coffee with them and their children. Please, correct me if I’m wrong. I did have those relationships with my midwives. I worked with them professionally as a doula, before they so graciously provided 100% of my pre and post natal care. Then I got to hang out with my midwife Holly and her beautiful daughters in the park. The relationship that any woman and family has with their midwives is strong, but I feel especially attached to these women and the work that they do. My history working with both doctors and midwives has shaped my beliefs about the way I think birth ought to be handled.

There aren’t a lot of blatant political statements on my blog, and that’s on purpose. One, I don’t like confrontation. Two, I want to have fun writing. Three, I want you to have fun reading it. I know that when political positions are established that there will always be people who disagree, and I don’t expect this to be any different. If after reading this, you want to tear into me about the state of birth in our country, please consider first taking a deep breath. Remember, I’m not assessing YOU specifically. When you feel like we can have a calm conversation about it, drop me a line. Please don’t impale me in the comments section below.

So here it is, my cause that I feel I cannot abandon. Which I promise to fight for and represent as long as I can stand it, and my spirit hasn’t been broken like the midwives I know and love. They who have been pioneers for midwifery in Idaho and champions for personal choice. Who put their passion on the line and had it ripped and beaten to shreds. For those who have been forced to drop the banner, I must pick it up and carry on. For Coleen and Jerusha Goodwin, two of my angel midwives whom I trusted with my life and my baby’s life, to whom I am eternally grateful.

I promise to champion completely natural midwife assisted, and when possible, out of hospital births. To defend the practice of midwifery and the women who provide prenatal, postnatal and well women care because it is a calling and a passion. For the women and families who chose miwifery care for all their prenatal, post natal, and well women care.

My knowledge of pregnancy and birth in the US is greater than most, but nowhere near where it’s going to have to be. I promise to become knowledgeable about studies and statistics regarding birth, and especially out of hospital midwife assisted birth, so that I can be a responsible representative for this cause.

I believe that pregnancy and birth are natural and normal, non medical, life events.

I believe that every birth should be attended by a midwife, except for the absolute highest risk cases, which according to UCSF Medical Center is only 6-8% of all pregnancies. This means that 92-94% of births should be attended by trained midwives.

I believe that hospital birth is not the safest option for all women to deliver babies. To read the debate about this click here.

I believe that women don’t need time lines, pitocin, cervical ripening, epidurals, elective cesareans or cesareans because of “failure to progress” in order to deliver healthy mamas and babies.

I believe that there is an entire mindset surrounding birth in our country that is contrary to the last statement, and in order for those ideas to become true we must change the way we teach families about birth.

I believe that women are inherently strong and capable in mind and body. Big women, small women, women of every race and creed are capable of delivering babies naturally. I don’t think that just because we have the option to take away the pain of labor that it’s a good idea. Allowing a woman’s body to work the way nature intended serves a purpose. Maybe it’s like an initiation, maybe it makes you fight harder for your children. Whatever the purpose of totally natural pregnancy, labor and delivery, it’s there for a reason.

I believe that science and technology have overrun pregnancy and birth. That because of the need to categorize and quantify everything in medicine, most doctors practicing family planning and labor/delivery have little or no idea about what normal natural birth looks like. Midwives do.

This is the start of my journey. One that started when I was a child, fascinated by reproduction and birth and matured with the out of hospital midwife attended birth of my own child. I am glad to have found a cause that means so much to me, but saddened that it took such loss and heartache to really understand my own feelings and spur me to action.

Coleen and Jerusha Goodwin and all the other midwives I know: If you read this, know that I trusted you, and you never once let me down or led me astray. Without you, and the work that you’ve dedicated your lives to, my own life and the lives of my son and husband wouldn’t be as fulfilled. Not only did you give us confidence in your ability to midwife our family, but you gave us the confidence we needed to become informed parents and citizens. Thank you, thank you, a million thank yous.

A Mother’s Musings On Life and Death

Okay, I don’t want to get too deep with the title of this post, but they are the best possible words for the job. As you know, I recently had a baby. I also am a doula and have been interested and excited by pregnancy and birth since I was a child. In the birthing community I have heard/said many times that birth and death are never far from each other. This is expressed in many sayings. For instance, “When one door closes, another one opens.” I’m sure you’ve heard similar expressions too.

I believe that these sayings are true, but in the multitude of times that I’ve heard and spoken of the birth/death relationship, I have always felt it as a very literal experience. This is no doubt because I’ve been witness to live babies being born. In my own birthing experience I can recall the very moment when I thought to myself, “no one actually dies from contractions.” And I meant it. I was talking myself down from a precipice. We are lucky to live in a day and age when death during birth is much more rare than it once was, and hopefully I don’t lesson the experience of those who have lost a loved one during their own birthing experience by writing about it.

I have never witnessed the death of a human, however. The closest I’ve ever really come is through conversations with my mother when she was with her friend, as she passed away after a long battle with cancer. I remember my mom talking about holding her hand and being with her in the same way that I am with birthing women as a doula. My mom was her friend’s doula, helping her say goodbye to this life in a loving and  positive way. The very same values that I hope to help birthing families and babies appreciate when they say hello to a new life. For some reason though, I have only witnessed death in this life one step removed.

I was struck by a realization the other day while looking through a friends photos online. Through her simple family photo I saw death for the first time, and my relationship to it. I can only really express it by telling the experience. Growing up I had a friend who was much older than I. She was married with children and I often babysat for them. I vacationed with their family, had parties at their home and we became good friends despite our age difference.

I then went to college and we have remained friends from a distance, as life has taken me far away. We stay in contact through various visits and online communication. A little more than a year ago her husband lost his own battle with cancer. He was a funny, dedicated, loving father and husband and he passed before his kids graduated from high school, albeit far too soon. It was strange when I saw him once, in person, to know that he was dying. He looked good, maybe a little skinny, but the knowledge of his illness made me uncomfortable. And that’s hard for me to admit, because I want to be the kind of person who can see past issues like that and show genuine love for my friends and humans in general. For someone who has spoken of death in such a casual way during my doula-ing, I wasn’t nearly as comfortable with it as I was with the birth aspect. I digress. In my friends photos she posted one of her husband with their son from many years ago. Seeing this photo, of a person who is very real to me, made him alive again. Having a son of my own and seeing this image of him with his son immediately touched me in a way that can’t be expressed in words. All I know is that it unlocked something inside of my soul that I can’t pinpoint just yet.

So why am I having this somewhat melancholy discussion on my blog about all things tender, you may ask. Well, there was a poem that I came across in the last few days, too, that I believe sums up how I feel about the whole birth and death conversation, and here it is:

“You are one of the
miracles of creation.
Address yourself
with respect
and wonder.”
-We’Moon 2011 
In the same way that I believe that birth and babies are miracles, my own baby is a miracle. Of course I believe that, he’s mine. But what about my parent’s creation? Well, that’s me. What about all my friends babies, they’re miracles. And so my friends are miracles in their own rights, so on and so forth. We are all miracles. It’s another way of seeing the circle of life, hokey as that may sound, and that’s pretty freakin’ tender. 
What makes a miracle so special, is the impermanence of the act. The real miracle of birth to me is the very moment that a baby takes their first breath. An extraordinary number of things need to occur for this one breath to happen, and if it doesn’t happen then extraordinary measures are taken to help make it happen. This moment is fleeting, and miraculous. As is the last breath that a person takes, it is just as fleeting as the first and it only happens once.

Supervising mom and dad’s yard working skills.

Why play in the water when you can suck it off your fingers?

He’s working hard to sit on his own, hence the tongue. It must be genetic because Luke and I both do that when we’re focusing hard.

He’s doing it! Look how excited he is with himself. Yeah, I’m a proud mama.

Surrender: The Birth Story

baby belySurrender: verb, to give oneself up, as into the power of another; submit or yield.

Before I had a baby of my own I was/am a doula. I help families deliver their babies into the world. It took certification, study, and confidence in the natural process of pregnancy and birth. I’ve been a doula for about 8 years and I know a lot about pregnancy and birth, A LOT. There have been many women who I’ve been with as they’ve crossed over into motherhood in both hospitals and birth centers. There have been completely natural births, water births, epidural births, vacuum assisted births and even a cesarean birth. Each and every one was different, but ended in the miracle of a new baby taking it’s first breath and feeling gravity for the first time. I thought I knew what birth was like because I’m a woman. In some ways I did know. I knew the physiology, I knew coping, hypnosis, and breathing techniques. I have an inherent belief that babies always come out when they are supposed to, if left to their own devices, and they will be born vaginally too. 


Many times I would instruct my clients that birth was about letting go of control. Letting your body do the work and becoming a bystander of sorts. It wasn’t until January 10, 2011 that I figured out what birth really is, and it’s not about letting go of control. Giving up control implies that, as a birthing woman, we have any control over birth in the first place, we don’t. Birth is about surrendering, giving oneself up to the power of another. That other may be god or the universe, for me it was giving myself up to my baby. 

This is the birth story of Porter Rainn, my son. I’m not going to fudge any of the words or images, so I will give a brief summary for those of you who don’t want the deep dark details, and then I’ll get into the thick of it. Here we go!

Porter Rainn was born 2 weeks and 4 days past his due date on Monday 1/10/11 at 12:53am after 50 hours of labor. This child took his sweet time! I labored at home from Friday 1/7/11 at 11pm until about 2am on Sunday 1/9/11. We went the birth center twice and were sent home because I was not yet far enough along before I was finally admitted. I then labored in a big bath tub at the birth center for about 13 hours, then labored out of the water for the rest of the time. I chanted, hummed, rocked and rolled until I pushed out my baby of 11 pounds 2 ounces. He came out just like a baby is supposed to come out and didn’t cause either of us any harm.  The birth was totally natural, assisted by my husband, doula and midwives, no inductions or drugs. Just good ol’ fashioned baby birthing. 

Porter was born into the loving hands of his father who then handed him to me so we could bond skin to skin. I even cut his cord. He started breastfeeding within 25 minutes and hasn’t stopped since. He measured 23.5 inches long and was chubby from the get go, bigger than any newborn I’ve ever seen in my life. He’s perfect, he’s wonderful, he cries, sleeps, poops and is very much loved my everyone who meets him. He’s lucky to be here and we are lucky to have him.


Now for the whole story, with details. Luke and I decided not to get any visual ultrasounds during my pregnancy and therefore didn’t know the gender of our baby. According to all wives tales, no one could figure it out either. He was due before Christmas on 12/23/10. I didn’t expect him to be born before or even on his due date, but I certainly didn’t expect him to be two and a half weeks past. By the time I had my last prenatal appointment, the midwives were telling me that if I wasn’t in active labor (dilated 4cm) by Monday, January 10th I would be drinking a Castor oil cocktail, or have to take my chances at the hospital. I was beginning to panic, neither option sounded like the way I wanted my baby to be born. Luckily, by Thursday night I lost my mucus plug and by Friday night around 11pm I started having somewhat regular pressure waves (contractions).  They were too intense to sleep through, but not so bad that I couldn’t use my hypnosis techniques and breathe through them. I instructed Luke to go to sleep because we would no doubt be having a baby the next day and he should be rested.


As my husband slept in bed I lit candles in the living room and swayed through what I though was a quickly progressing labor. I timed pressure waves and they were steady at 5 minutes apart and lasting anywhere from 30-70 seconds. During my pregnancy I had tested positive for Group B Strep (GBS). No big deal and quite common for pregnant ladies. It did mean that I had to either go on IV antibiotics 6 hours before the baby was born or do a vaginal wash with Chlorhexidine, an antiseptic that kills bacteria so that I didn’t pass GBS onto my newborn baby. Hibiclens can be purchased for $10 a bottle at your local drugstore. Since I had no desire for an IV or antibiotics I had to do this wash every six hours until the baby was born. I got a peri-bottle and diluted the Hibiclens

The night passed and at about 7am on Saturday I was sure it was time to go to The Baby Place. I woke Luke and he called my friend and doula Sarah to tell her it was time. When she got the call we could hear her husband hoot and holler with excitement in the background. She came right over and we loaded up the cars and excitedly drove to the birth center about 25 minutes away. Oh goody, this was it!! Or so I thought.

When we got to the birth center the midwife checked my cervical dilation and I was hoping for at least 4cm (active labor), even better would be 6. After a quick check I was told to go back home because I was only dilated to 2cm. Hmm, this was taking longer then I thought. We made the drive home and I continued to labor using my hypnosis techniques (which weren’t working as well as I had imagined).

After the day passed I decided that I must be at least 4cm and we returned to the birth center with high hopes. I really wanted to get into one of their gigantic bath tubs. When we walked in I met Holly and started crying. On the way over I had my first realization about what it really meant to let each contraction move through me. To allow the energy to move through my body and open me up, but I didn’t have the words to explain it. I told Holly this and she said the word that struck right to the core of this whole birthing experience, she called it surrender. 


I climbed onto the bed, ready to be dilated to at least 4-5 centimeters. Alas, still 2 cm. While I was disappointed I was confident that I now knew what this whole surrender process was about and on the ride home, as I listened to my hypnosis, I quietly allowed each contraction to move through me. Luke was impressed and I’m sure slightly relieved that my moaning and groaning had subsided.


This continued for the rest of the day and into the night. I labored in the tub and out and the contractions got stronger and stronger. Luke built a fire in the fire place and they both took turns supporting me and taking naps. At around midnight the contractions reached what I thought was critical pains and I really wanted to get into the big bath tub at the birth center. I called the midwife and pleaded to come in and get in the tub and she said ok. We then took the longest most uncomfortable drive, OF MY LIFE!


We finally arrived for the third time at the birth center and Holly had the tub all set for me to go. She wasn’t going to check me just yet, but said I should hang in the tub while she slept for a little while. I was in heaven. I labored in the tub somewhere between 12 and 15 hours. I was pickled and pruned and didn’t leave to go the the bathroom because urine is sterile. It sounds totally gross now, but I was so grateful for the watery relief that it didn’t matter to me one bit. Holly eventually checked me, after the sun came up, and I was dilated 5 centimeters. Half way to pushing and as Holly enthusiastically said, “You don’t have to take Castor oil!” Honestly, I hadn’t even thought I would have to go there, and I was glad that opportunity passed me by.


The first half of the next day (Sunday) passed with me in the tub working through contractions and dozing in between. Luke and Sarah took turns napping and breathing me through it all. I finally decided that I needed a change of pace. This was taking a long time and I realized that I had to move around in order to move this baby down and out. I asked for Holly and Colleen’s advice. I believe my exact words were, “I’m in a rut.” They suggested that I get out of the pool and onto the bed with heat packs on my back. I agreed that it was time for me to experience the next level of labor and I knew that my support people were ready to actually get down to business. 


The second half of the day was spend mostly on the bed on my left side. I would have liked to walk around and squat and do all the other fabulous positions I have preached to so many women, but honestly they made the contractions hurt like hell. At this point in my mind I was reminding myself that no one actually died from contractions and I instantly took back any judgement I had of women who use epidurals during labor. Poor Luke was trapped behind me, folded like a pretzel,  pushing a heat pack on my lower back while Sarah was in front of me helping me sing (heeee hawwww heeee hawww, etc…) through the contractions. Throughout all this I was drinking water, getting up to pee and every six hours I was using the Hibiclens. I want to say that time flew, but the clock pretty much didn’t register in my mind. I was having to take it one contraction at a time. I will say that at no point was I scared or didn’t think I could do it. My babies heart rate was awesome, so I just had to keep moving forward on this journey.


Nighttime came and the contractions were getting very intense. There is no real way to explain it, but it felt like the energy of a train running through my body and out my vajayjay. I wanted to push, but knew that I wasn’t yet 10 centimeters and pushing too soon could cause my cervix to swell and therefore prevent it from dilating further. The last two centimeters were by far the most difficult, frustrating, and painful event of my life. Both Luke and Sarah had been dedicated helpers, but they were obviously tired and didn’t know how else they could help me. There was no way to ease the intensity of what I was going through. I’ll say this, transition is a bitch! 


Holly came in and told me that I had to start letting the last of this energy work through me without spazzing out (my words, not hers). I had to quiet down during the contraction and then rest in between them. Much easier said than done. It involved lots of low groans, blowing out candles across the room and the sleeping in between contractions. Thankfully Lynelle, a midwife in training came in. She was a sight for sore eyes. It was around 10pm and she was fresh, smiling and an angel there to help me make it to the end, when I had exhausted everyone around me. Lynelle sat with me face to face and allowed me to gaze into her eyes during contractions when I thought my body was going to explode. She smiled, reminded me to relax my face and shoulders and was a moment of peace for my screaming mind and body. This whole surrendering bit was really really hard.


Finally I decided it was time. I could wait no longer and I was pushing with or without permission. Holly checked my dilation and I was at 9.5 cm. I pleaded with her that there must be something she could do to help get me to 10, and she said yes. PRAISE THE LORD! This was maybe the happiest time of the day, I was going to push my baby out. I sat on the birthing stool and gave a strong heave downward. My water broke and was perfectly clean and then I started peeing. I peed for what seemed like 5 minutes. I don’t know why because I’d been going to the bathroom all day, like the good little doula that I am. Something about my water breaking and being able to release my bottom let my bladder go. I know better than anyone that bodily functions during labor are to be expected, I just didn’t think I would be so embarrassed. Oh, and yes I pooped too, twice! Everyone around me practically did the happy dance for me though, and they couldn’t have cared less.


In order for me to get past the last half centimeter I had to lay on the bed with my legs held over my head by two women so Holly could help push the last bit of cervix over the baby’s head. I had expected to push on the birthing stool or in the water, but it was my destiny to push on my back. With every contraction I would say to Sarah and Colleen, “it’s time” and they would pull my legs back and over my head. While they were doing that I pushed and pushed and pushed some more. There was no counting and no one chanting at me what to do. It was awesome. From being a so many births I knew that I could push with all my might and the baby wouldn’t come flying out, so that is what I did. I managed to get three solid pushes with each contraction. The midwives had told me to expect to push for 2-4 hours since I was a first time mom. In my head I knew it wouldn’t take that long, I was meant to push this baby out and I wasn’t scared of any pain or pressure that may come my way. I was born for this moment.

In between pushes I would watch Luke’s face and I could tell how far along we were by where he was standing. There was comfortable banter among the women and Sarah tended to my washcloth and water needs. As Luke said it was a very YaYa of the Traveling Pants moment. I loved it. I love remembering this time, the happiness and love that filled the room was exactly what I wanted my baby to be born into. There was peace and confidence everywhere.

Finally, Holly started spraying my nether region with olive oil and she instructed Luke to come sit next to her so he could be ready to catch the baby. I began to feel very intense stretching during one of the pushes and then it burned. My focused push turned into a yell and I felt the ring of fire that is spoken of. Then the hardest words to hear were spoken to me in the midst of this very fiery moment, “Don’t push, just breath through it.” HA! I know I was given this advice so I wouldn’t tear so I did my best to blow out imaginary candles. Then Jerusha, another midwife, said to only push if you’re having a contraction. To which I replied that I couldn’t tell if I was having a contraction because “THERE’S A HEAD STICKING OUT OF ME!!” The head finally passed to the outside of my body and Holly gave the go ahead to give a big push, when I did I felt my sweet baby slip from my body and into the arms of his loving father.

It was quiet for a moment and then there was a soft cry. I looked to Sarah and said, “It’s a baby!” “Yes it is.” she replied matter of factly. I looked between my legs and Luke passed Porter up and into my arms. He was crying now and I held him high on my chest. His body was so long that it trailed off my side onto the bed. When it was time to cut the cord Luke’s hands were too slippery from catching the baby and Sarah didn’t feel the need, so I volunteered to cut the cord. I was elated, couldn’t have been happier. Luke was crying and super emotional. Two and a half weeks past the due date and after 50 hours of labor had our baby boy!

The last part of birth gives the most relief by far. The delivery of the placenta happened a few minutes after Porter was born and I started to have cramping again. I pushed 2-3 times and out it slid. My body felt empty and it felt GREAT. I made everyone look at the placenta before it was placed into a bag. After a good check of my parts and the recognition of a small tear that didn’t need stitches the midwives left the room to go help another woman push her baby out. We were alone with our baby, who began breast feeding instantly and without any problems.

Around 3am Jerusha and Colleen came into to take Porter’s measurements, they were pretty astounded by what they found. Weight: 11pounds 2 ounces (Luke called it and was very pleased) Length: 23.5 inches Head circumference: 14.5 inches
Our baby was HUGE! We spent the rest of the night eating scrambled eggs and toast, took baths and then fell into a deep sleep for the next 4-5 hours with our new baby in between us. It all went perfectly. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience during my prenatal care and labor. My baby and I were healthy and my husband was more supportive and loving than I ever could have imagined. I trusted my body and mother nature and I wasn’t let down. We plan on having another baby in a few years and I hope to do it the same way. While my body will forever be changed, the pain has passed and I have a strength and gratitude that I have never experienced before. Even though I will never poo poo a women for using medication to ease the pain of childbirth, I highly recommend an out of hospital birth with no drugs. It was worth every single moment.

Life After Birth

Two of my good friends came over today to meet Porter over lunch. After sharing my birth experience (which is coming in a future post) one friend asked if I had any postpartum depression. When I said no, she replied that with the pregnancy, birth and postpartum I had had the perfect experience. That got me thinking that, yes I had a pretty near perfect experience. Everything went as planned, my family came out of the birth experience happy and healthy and I’ve almost made it to a month with a brand new baby and haven’t had issues with depression. What I will say is that for the first two weeks of my new life after baby I did feel a little crazy. With hormones raging, being closed into my house, being sleep deprived and figuring out how to take care of myself, my baby and husband, I think a little insanity is okay. I’m not doctor or therapist, but there are a few things that I attribute to my (mostly) positive attitude in the last few weeks:

1. My husband and I planned to have a baby and were thoroughly prepared to deal with this new life.
2. I was highly educated about the kind of birth experience I wanted to have and took every measure to make that experience happen.
3. When something went differently than planned, I tried to roll with the punches and did fear clearing hypnosis.
4. My baby hasn’t left my side since the moment he was born, not even to be measured and weighed. We were skin to skin immediately following birth.
5. Breastfeeding. It’s not easy and hurts like crazy sometimes, but the hormones released and the bonding that happens make it all worth it.
6. Super supportive husband, family and friends. Luke was extra supportive of our birthing choices and breastfeeding and wants to be as involved a dad as possible. I had friends who helped cook and clean for 2 solid weeks after the baby came, and my mom came for a week when Luke had to go back to work the third week.
7. Walking outside. After the first 2 weeks it was obvious that I had to move my body. I bundle up the baby and we walk every day, even if it’s just around the block.
8. Talking with people made a world of difference. Especially people who have been through and survived having a new baby. Hearing how they dealt and what they dealt with brought me back to reality and made me realize that this crazy time would soon pass, and evidently I would miss it. We’ll see about that one.
9. I was aware of postpartum depression and tried to stay vigilant about whether I was experiencing those symptoms, or just normal new mom anxiety.
10. Finally, back to the fact that I’m pretty average and acknowledging that women have been having babies since FOREVER and continue to do it around the world, hundreds of times everyday, and still manage to survive. This means that my chances of survival and general well being are pretty high and I can count on the crazy parts passing and rest assured that what I’m experiencing is NORMAL.

There it is. My top 10 reasons why I think that I came through this pregnancy, birth and post birth without diving into the pit that is depression. Again, I’m not a doctor or therapist and I don’t want anyone to think that this list is a cure or a guarantee, but I’m sure they helped me get through this first month of life after birth. And now to take you out, some tender pictures of Porter at 1 month.

Here’s a video shot by our friend Danny at our Friday night dinner. Luke and Shaun are jammin’ and Ashley is holding Porter.

Going for a walk

Porter the visionary

The “yeah right” face

Happy Porter

Cupie Doll Porter

“I told you so.”

Life is good Porter

Porter’s workin’ out a deuce face, sorry TMI

Patience Is A Virtue

My dad always used to say this to me when I would get anxious about something. Then as a teacher I found the whole saying, which goes like this,

“Patience is a virtue. Virtue is a grace. Put them both together and they make a pretty face.”

I don’t think my dad meant for me to end up with a pretty face at the end of that lesson, but I certainly understood that patience was a desirable quality to have. What I didn’t understand as a child was the depth of patience that is possible when a person is pressed into some situations.

My situation happens to be that I am well past when I, and apparently everyone else (with the exception of my midwives and husband), thought that my baby would have made an entrance into this world. There have been multiple inquiries per day as to when this child will be born, and I don’t even have to go to work like Luke and be asked by coworkers. My favorite question once I answer how far along I am is, “Well, what are you going to do about it?”  The simple answer is, “Nothing, it’s not up to me.”

It’s true that in this day in age I could easily go to a hospital and be given an artificial hormone, pitocin, to jump start this birth. I could have done that weeks ago in fact. Or I could even schedule for a doctor to slice me open and take the baby out for me via c-section. There are also other less invasive actions I could take, a few include: walking (check), squatting (check), spicy food (check), various activities with my husband (check), eggplant parm (eww eggplant), pineapple (check), house cleaning (check), acupuncture (check), chiropractic adjustment (check), hypnosis (check) or even a Castor oil cocktail. To that last one, knowing the effects of Castor oil and how it works, I’m leaving that to a pretty dire circumstance. So what to do you ask?

Same as before, NOTHING, it’s not up to me. I am a firm believer in the body’s ability to conceive, grow and birth a baby all by itself. If you read my first post you know how very average I find myself to be, making babies is included in this belief. My preferred method of primary care are the wonderful and highly skilled midwives at The Baby Place, no doctors or hospitals for me or this baby. At least if I can avoid them. I promise to do a future post on my pregnancy and birth philosophy. If you know me, you know I’m an alternative girl in that arena. What I have come to learn is that in nature, we humans have no control; not over the weather, the tide, the climate or the seasons. By default, I have no natural control over when this baby is born. This has tested my patience immensely.

There are a battery of emotions that I have gone through in the past five weeks, ranging from jubilation and content to depression and sadness to even a little fear that maybe I’m not really pregnant and this baby is a figment of my imagination. Some tender feelings and some not so tender feelings. What I have learned is, by having patience I am forced to live in this moment. Dwelling on the last few weeks gets me nowhere and trying to figure out when my time to birth will happen is futile. So where does that leave me? In the here and now.

There are many tender things to appreciate here and now: my husband’s kindness and love, my families support, my friends caring, every movement my baby makes, cuddly cats, health, wealth, warmth during this cold season, the sun staying longer everyday.  I may not have traveled to an ashram in India to meditate on how to be in the now, but this journey to motherhood has been a creative act none the less. It’s pretty tender that my child has taught me such a valuable lesson in patience before even leaving my body.

Until that time comes I will continue to repeat positive affirmations: Pregnancy is normal. My baby is healthy inside my body. I have patience, faith and courage. And lastly, I promise that I will notify the whole world when this baby makes it’s arrival, please just have patience.