Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Birth of Beau Austin

Everyone always told me that I would “just know” when labor started. I didn’t quite understand what that meant, but when I awoke at 3:30 am on January 19 to the feeling of slight lower back pain that moved around to the front of my body in a wave-like formation ¾ I just knew. Labor was starting and we would soon meet our baby boy, Beau, whose arrival we had been anticipating for so long.  I was excited and ready to do whatever it took to meet him.

I rolled over in bed, nudged my husband, and told him that I had just felt my first real contraction and that I had a very strong feeling the baby would be born that day. We quickly discussed that it was possible that we had a long road ahead of us; so, we both tried our hardest to fall back asleep and resist the urge to get the day started.  I went to restroom before going back to sleep and noticed a small amount of pink-tinged liquid in the toilet.  All I could think is, “this is really happening!” I never thought I would be so excited to greet the “bloody show” I had heard so much about and that was a sign that “real” labor ¾ not the Braxton Hicks contractions that I had been feeling for weeks ¾ had finally arrived!

About an hour later, I had another surge that woke me from my sleep. When I glanced at the clock I saw that it was 4:44 am.  From that point forward, I felt a great sense of calm and an unwavering confidence that the birth would go smoothly and that I was being watched over and guided by a force greater than me.  The number 4 and the time 4:44 has always been special to me.  Throughout most of my life, my mother and I always wake briefly at 4:44 am for what appears to be no reason at all, and she always told me that when I did so it was a sign that angels were watching over me and guiding me.  I consistently awoke at 4:44 am during most of my pregnancy ¾ just as my mother had done during her pregnancies.  It sounds silly, but waking for that surge at 4:44 am set me on a very positive course and helped me have faith that everything was going to be just fine with the birth.

I was able to go back to sleep until approximately 7:00 am, at which point we woke and made a delicious breakfast of our favorite spicy cheddar muffins.  After we finished breakfast, my husband called our doula, Sandra Lloyd, to let her know that labor had begun.  Sandra suggested that I try to take it easy and rest as much as possible to ensure that I maintained my strength for the rest of the labor.  We also called Maria to let her know that labor had started and promised to keep her updated.  I then called my family to let them know that I was in labor, and as planned, my mother began shopping for an airline ticket so that she could hopefully make it out from Dallas to San Francisco in time for the birth.

Early labor was pretty uneventful.  For most of the morning I did what I would do any normal day ¾ took a shower, did some light housework, read the news, and spent some time in the backyard enjoying the beautiful and unseasonably warm January weather.  I even started questioning whether what I was experiencing was real labor because my surges were only about six minutes apart and were not painful or even that noticeable. 

Things started to pick up mid-day.  I began to experience some pain on and off with the surges that caught me by surprise. Every third to fourth surge would be really strong, and they started coming closer together at about four minutes apart. I was trying my best to eat and stay hydrated, but when the strong surges came, I had a hard time keeping food and drink down.  In the course of a few hours, I vomited with six of the surges.  We were worried that I would become dehydrated; so, we called Maria again and she suggested that I slow my ingestion of food and liquid to see if it would stop the vomiting.  Maria’s suggestion was exactly what I needed because from that point forward, my stomach felt much better and I did not vomit again.

I spent the rest of the afternoon laying on the couch and distracting myself from the pain of the surges by watching the 49ers lose to the Seahawks in the NFL playoffs.  I also dozed off intermittently while my husband prepared what was to be a fantastic post-labor meal of some of my favorites ¾ lentil soup and rice krispie treats.  The afternoon seemed to fly by in a matter of minutes, and my surges sped up very quickly. By this time, I had gotten into the groove of labor. I was no longer feeling pain; rather, I was feeling very excited about meeting our baby and kept replaying affirmations in my head, such as “you’re making progress” and “you’re one step closer to the end.”  By the end of the afternoon, I had sufficiently psyched myself out and was actually looking forward to strong surges because they enabled me to visualize the baby’s head sliding down faster than with the easy surges.  I had no idea how quickly I had progressed, but by 3:30 pm my surges had become only two minutes apart.  At this point, I had the strong urge to labor on the toilet and began to feel a slight sensation to begin pushing.  I also lost my mucus plug while sitting on the toilet.  In the meantime, my husband had begun filling the aqua doula that we assembled several days before. 

My husband quickly called Maria and our doula, Sandra, to report on the progress, and both told us that they were headed our way since things were progressing so quickly.  By the time Maria and her back-up midwife, Laura, arrived early that evening, I was so in the zone that all I remember was being very still and introspective.  I was focused only on making progress and doing whatever it took to meet Beau as soon as I could.  When Maria checked me, she said that I was at 9.5 cm, that I was going to have the baby soon, and that I should let her know as soon as I was ready to start pushing.  At that point, all I felt like doing was sitting on the toilet to labor. I had every intention of using the aqua doula for labor and delivery, if possible, but the tub wasn’t even all the way full and it was too late to jump in.  A few minutes after sitting on the toilet, I heard a very loud pop and a gush of water (I credit the Vitamin C with bioflavonoids I had been taking for several weeks for the strength of the bag). Maria rushed in and checked that the water was free of meconium, which, thankfully, it was.

I immediately felt a very strong urge to push. Maria and Sandra guided me into my bed where I began pushing.  After about 30 minutes, I felt that I would be able to push more effectively if I sat on the birthing stool; so, I transferred to the stool and continued to push.  I made much more progress in that position, and after about an hour, Maria let me know that I was very close to birthing the baby’s head.  My husband later told me that this sight was one of the most surreal that he has ever seen, and I wish that I had not turned down the opportunity to feel the head at that moment. However, I spent most of my time pushing with my eyes closed and my hands on my knees, and all I was thinking was “I’m making progress!”  I didn’t want to change anything at that point ¾ not even the position of my hands.  My mother arrived right around this time, and as Maria mentioned later, Beau was waiting for his grandmother to arrive before making his debut because the delivery kicked into high gear after she arrived and he was born within a matter of minutes.

After a few more pushes, Maria told me that my perineum tissue was pretty strong and was not tearing to accommodate the baby’s head as typically occurs.  She said that with a small incision to the perineum, the baby would probably be born in only a few pushes.  I really wanted to avoid an incision of any sort; so, I told her that I wanted to try giving a few more good pushes and that if he didn’t come, I would consider the incision.  After a few more pushes, I felt like he was so close to arriving that I took Maria’s suggestion that we make a small incision to allow his head to ease through the tissue.  I transferred back to my bed, Maria made a small quarter-inch incision, and our beautiful baby boy was out and on my chest in only two pushes at 10:12 pm. 

Beau was so alert and calm, and we spent several minutes staring into each other’s eyes. It was love at first sight, and was such a surreal feeling that I will always treasure and never forget. My husband cut the cord after it stopped pulsing, and Beau continued to lie on my chest while I admired him and basked in such intense feelings of joy and relief.  I felt so grateful and relieved that the birth had gone smoothly and that my precious son had finally arrived.

After I spent about 20 minutes bonding with Beau, Maria guided me back to the birthing stool and I birthed the placenta in just a few pushes.  Then, Maria gave me a few stitches, and I hopped in the shower to recharge.  I later learned that my husband took this opportunity to take Beau outside in our backyard, show him the full moon, and give him his first breath of fresh California ocean air ¾ an experience that we could only have at home.

I emerged from my shower feeling better than I ever have in my life.  The rush of energy I felt was incredibly intense ¾ I felt so empowered, and I know I will always be able to draw from that energy in the future.  I then returned to my freshly made bed to begin breastfeeding Beau, and we concluded the night with a delicious feast of lentil soup, warm bread and rice krispie treats.

Beau’s birth was the most amazing experience of my life and I feel blessed beyond belief. I am extremely thankful that I had someone as skilled and dedicated as Maria to guide me through the birth I had always wanted and knew was possible. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Birth of Rowan Violet

My husband Chris and I knew Rowan would be born on Christmas Eve. I’m not sure how we knew, we just knew. We also knew she was a girl, even before the ultrasound. But as Christmas Eve approached, I had to take a few deep breaths and try to release my control over her birth.

Maria said to plan on 36 hours of labor, so at dinner on December 23rd, we thought a Christmas Eve baby was a long shot. But at 11:45pm, I woke up leaking amniotic fluid. I soaked my underwear and a spot on our sheets, but I knew there was nothing to do about it yet. I changed and went back to bed. I slept restlessly for a couple hours, and woke again at 3am to another release of fluids. This time I sat on the toilet to confirm it was amniotic fluid, and sure enough it had little bits of pink and white floating in it. I started to get excited, but knew I needed sleep for what was ahead. Chris was partially awake and asked if I was ok, and I told him my water broke, but to go back to sleep. We would call Maria in the morning.

We both slept as best we could, waiting for 9am so we could call Maria. When we called, she asked if I’d had any surges, and I didn’t think I had – I assumed I’d know when I had one. I was having sensations super low in my pelvis, but nothing I would consider strong, or what I was expecting a surge to feel like. Maria suggested going on a walk, making an acupuncture appointment, and doing some nipple stimulation to get things moving, as we needed labor to start within 24-48 hours to avoid infection now that my bag was open. So we slowly started getting ready to meet the day. I spent a few minutes meditating, inviting my labor in, inviting it to start. My brother came over and we walked to The Mill, home of the infamous $4 toast, a few blocks from our house. On the way we ran into our friends James and Ally, who were super excited for us. I ordered pumpkin butter on wheat, which was surprisingly difficult to eat – I was feeling pretty out of it, like waiting for a drug to come on. Then we walked to Alamo Square so our dog Calamity could run around. We chatted with some folks at the park, watched her play, and took a super touristy and awesome photo in front of the pink ladies.
When we got home, Chris went to the grocery store to get food for the birth while my brother rearranged some furniture and set up the birth tub. My brother then headed off for his haircut appointment – he didn’t want to leave me, but I was convinced we had lots of time before things really kicked into gear. I started doing what remained of our birth setup, but quickly started feeling strong surges. I texted Chris at around 3:30pm to come home – I was definitely in labor.

By the time Chris got home, my surges were one minute long and ten minutes apart, and I needed him to put counter pressure on my back and hips while I rocked on the ball. He called Maria, and she told us to expect another twelve hours of this type of labor. But very quickly the surges became more intense, about four to five minutes apart. Chris wanted to call Maria again, but I said the surges needed to be consistent for a full hour before we called. Then the surges got stronger again, and I moved downstairs closer to the bed and the tub. Within a few surges, I was having minute long surges every two to three minutes, and I remember asking Chris, “Why is this happening so fast??” One of the affirmations from our birth class was to rest in the pauses, but I wasn't getting any pauses – the surges just kept coming in close waves, and I was having trouble processing each surge before the next one came. I asked Chris to call Maria (I know now he had already called her when I asked), and she said Sue Baelen was on her way, as Christmas Eve is Maria’s night off with her family. I almost cried when I saw Sue, and again when Leah, our doula arrived. Sue told me I was doing a great job, which I definitely needed to hear, and she took my phone away from me – I didn’t need to be timing the surges anymore. Leah dove right in and started putting counter pressure on my back and vocalizing through the surges with me. Leah and Sue then suggested I labor on my side on the bed, so I could rest in between, as up until now I had been on the ball. I had a few surges on the bed, and felt a need to pee, or poop, or something. I had a strong surge on the toilet, and needed Leah to help me through it. We went back to the bed, and I started feeling pressure on my pelvic floor, like I wanted to start pushing. I remember saying out loud that I thought I wanted to push - I was surprised at the sensation. Sue asked if she could check me, and I said yes. She asked what I wanted to be, and I honestly said I didn’t know. When Sue said 8.5cm, Leah cheered, and I felt awesome - I know I smiled, I may have even laughed. Then another surge came, and it was longer and stronger than any other surge so far. Sue asked how it felt, and I said it was “something else," as it took me over completely. I asked if I could get into the tub (which was magically filled up by now), and Sue said yes. I started laboring in the tub, leaning over the side and rocking during the surges. I asked Chris to come in with me to apply pressure on my hips, but a surge came quickly and he put pressure on from outside the tub, and it was way too much – I couldn’t have any pressure on my hips anymore, and I wanted to be in the tub by myself. Leah continued to massage and put pressure on my sacrum, and breathe and vocalize through the surges with me, which were now amazingly intense. I knew I was vocalizing, but I didn’t quite realize how loudly. After one particularly strong surge, I heard Maria come in. She said, “You’re a rock star!” and kissed my forehead. It was so good to hear her voice, and she brought such a strong, solid calm in with her – the whole room lifted, and I laughed and cried. I was and still am so so grateful that she came, even on Christmas Eve.

And then I really started pushing. Maria asked me to flip over onto my back so she could see what was happening a bit better. I did, and started pushing with my legs against the side of the tub. Chris held me from behind outside the tub, and Leah held my right leg so I could more easily push against the sides - I needed them both there to hold me, and I wouldn't let them leave. Maria told me to feel between my legs, and it was both surreal and inspiring to feel our daughter’s head pushing out. I couldn’t stay in the moment long, as another strong surge sent me back to holding hands with Chris and Leah. My eyes were closed through most of the surges, and only opened when someone spoke. During one surge, I arched my back and yelled upward, and my energy went everywhere – I was having trouble grounding until Maria suggested I tuck my chin and vocalize downward. She pressed on my perineum and told me to focus my energy on pushing there. I did as best I could, and I felt her head coming farther and farther out, and slipping back in between – the sensation of her slipping back was super uncomfortable, and I said so out loud. But the surges kept coming, and I was making headway. I had a moment of concern about my legs being strong enough, but the moment didn’t last long - I couldn't dwell. Maria then told me it was time to slow down and breathe her out. I heard the words, but I couldn’t – I kept pushing. Maria helped stretch the area where she was coming, which was uncomfortable but very helpful. With the next surge, I felt so close – if I could just push a little more, she’d be out – so I pushed and pushed and pushed, and pushed one more time, and it felt like she came out all at once.

I opened my eyes as she was put on my chest, and I got to see my beautiful daughter for the first time. Her little head was covered in vernix, and she had a pi sign in the middle of her forehead. 
She cried just a little, and then I held her against my chest and rubbed her little shoulder. My husband cut her cord after it stopped pulsing, and Maria suggested I cradle her in the water – she started looking around, just checking out the world. She was so alert and calm, and absolutely perfect – the rush of emotions in that moment are indescribable. Our little Rowan Violet was born at 7:13pm, about 4 hours after my surges started.

Then it was time to get out of the tub and birth the placenta. Chris and Leah took our daughter and dried her off while I sat on the birth stool. And nothing happened. I didn’t feel like pushing, and I didn't have any more surges. I tried pushing anyway, but nothing. I nursed Rowan, but still nothing. After about 30 minutes on the birth stool, Maria suggested I get on the bed and try a new position. And still nothing.  Maria and Sue offered a shot of Pitocin to help get the placenta out, and I said yes. And still nothing. I was surprised, as I’d heard Pitocin really kicked surges into gear. I tried pushing even though I had no urge, and still nothing. Maria and Sue were both looking a little worried about this point – I knew that the placenta needed to come out, but I didn’t know how to make it happen. On Maria’s suggestion, I thanked the placenta for everything it had done, and told it that it was time to let go – it’s job was done, and now we needed it to be born. I tried pushing again. And nothing. I wasn’t bleeding, so Maria said we had three options – we could continue to wait, she could try going in to get it, or we could go to the OR to get it out. I did not want to go to the OR, but I was ready to be done. Maria said she couldn’t really tug it because the cord was torn, and she was afraid she’d lose it, so she needed go in manually to retrieve it. As a last ditch effort, they tried a catheter to empty my bladder, but my bladder was already empty. We decided to have Maria go in manually, as she felt confident, and we felt confident in her. They set me up with an IV just in case I started bleeding and we needed to transfer, and gave me another shot of Pitocin. Maria went in, and it was unbelievably raw and uncomfortable. I helped push, but the placenta didn’t come out. She went in again, and together we birthed it. Sue immediately checked it over to make sure it was whole, and Maria watched for bleeding. I wasn’t bleeding, the placenta was whole, and a weight lifted - the work of birth truly isn't over until the placenta is born, and now I could relax.

The placenta was small, but it helped sustain my daughter’s life for 10 months, and I am grateful. Maria showed me where she was in the amniotic sac, and showed me the placenta. It was really beautiful. Now that all the work of labor was done, we went upstairs to our bedroom to settle in. Chris put new sheets on the bed, Maria and Sue set us up with what we needed, and went home. I nursed our little girl, and was amazed at our wonderful Christmas present. Our little Rowan Violet is perfect, perfect, perfect, and we’re so in love. I am so incredibly blessed - we had the home birth we wanted, the home birth we envisioned, and I am very, very grateful.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Of Pride & Placenta: A Birth Story

Written by A, who is the husband of M, who both are the parents of O.

Having been together for a few years now, M. is used to waiting around a lot for a man that she loves, only to have him surprise her and come earlier than she excepted, which is to say...We’ve got a new baby boy!
Please welcome O, the newest cast member to our family. O was born on Saturday at our place, homebirth-style.

Chapter 1: The Water Breaks ( AKA Orinoco Flow (Preview) )
Here’s the scoop. M. woke me up at 3:00 a.m. Friday night/Saturday morning and said, “I want you to come and look at something in the bathroom.” I know what you’re thinking, AND? Happens all the time, right? But, this time – this time it was different. This time her water had broken! Also, that is kind of a misnomer because water doesn’t break, ice breaks, but anyway—the bag holding the water had ruptured/broken what-have-you. What this means for all you people at home without any kids, is that—It. Is. On.
At this point, it may help to picture the little digital clock from Kiefer Sutherland’s 24 counting down in the corner of your mind throughout the rest of this story. (Pro Tip: Once the water breaks, the sterile environment that the baby has been in during pregnancy is no longer present. This means you want to deliver the baby within about 24 hours so you don’t auto-infect the newborn with flora present in your own system or external bacteria.)
We called our fantastic midwife Maria, and UCSF at 3:15 a.m. & they both agreed that we should pop over to the hospital to get an IV with a little antibiotic cocktail (first cocktail she’d had in 38.5 weeks, poor thing). We also needed to confirm that the water had indeed “broken” and have the baby’s heart rate monitored.
We took an UBER Black Car, because we figured A) they would be cleaner than a taxi, B) nobody ever takes them (easy to get) and C) because we don’t own a car. (Joshua, I did actually suggest a Flywheel at this point, but M. wanted the leather interiors with the (likely false) hope that they had recently been wiped down...)
Chapter 2: The Hospital
We arrived at the hospital and the nurses ushered us into a little hospital triage room for a long time. The monitoring looked good, the IV was administered, and we were finally able to leave the hospital and head home at about 9 a.m. This means that we checked in at 4 a.m. and checked out at 8:45 a.m. for a grand total of *4.75 hours (did that in my head). Most of our time was spent hurrying up and waiting since they kept telling us to sit tight until we could talk to yet another doctor. But, we were kind of like, “If everything is good, and we already talked to the doctors, then why are we still in this room?” So we made our escape to the birthing center, AKA: our house! (*Pay attention to that that number, it comes in handy for comparison purposes later.)
Chapter 3: Home Again
When we got back home just after 9 a.m.,M.  wasn’t really having contractions yet and since that 24-hour clock was still ticking, we decided to do what anyone having a baby at home would do: give her diarrhea to kick-start the labor.
Chapter 4: Castor Oil
We explained the lack of contractions to Maria, our amazing midwife, so she told us about a popular old midwife’s trick: castor oil. This trick is very simple. Go to Walgreens. Get a little $5 bottle of castor oil. Pour the oil into the blender with a lot of orange juice. You’re now holding the world’s worst Orange Julius. Drink the foamy laxative Vitamin C mixture. The oil says it will start to work anywhere between 4-12 hours. Tick tock. We decided to add some exercise to the mix to expedite things, so we left home and started walking around the neighborhood.
Chapter 5: 10:30 a.m. Go-Time
We came home from the walk and M. very quickly began feeling increasingly intense contractions. We walked around the house between contractions and then M. would post-up and lean against things like beds, couches, chairs, and me while she honed-in on her primal mama grizzly bear growl. After about an hour of increasingly vociferous and thunderous grumbles, all the small woodland creatures in the neighborhood had fled, leaving the house oddly still, save for M.’s impressive impersonation of Grendel’s mother.
Chapter 6: 12:30 p.m. Calvary Arrives
Gabrielle (the great doula) and Maria (our midwife) arrived around lunchtime. Gabrielle began helping with encouraging words and a practiced soothing touch, that included hip-squeezes and a bevy of comfort measures. Maria moved about the house with the practiced efficiency of a Swiss timepiece, setting up her supplies and checking-in on M. and the baby with her remote baby heart-monitoring wand.
Chapter 7: Dilation: It’s In the Details.
M.’s contractions were epic. Like Epic of Gilgamesh epic, and so Maria decides to check the cervix. The cer-what? Ha! M. laughs in the face of bottlenecks like this. Her powerful timbre and focused uterine surges had decimated the cervix and prepared the baby’s escape route.
Chapter 8: Crowning Achievements
Maria tells M. that it’s now okay for her to push anytime she wants.She  is surprised. She asks, “Really? Already?” Maria nods, and M. continues her Ironman sprint towards motherhood. 40 minutes of pushing ensue over several venues in the house, and then…we see him. He’s out, his powerful lungs quickly began filling the room with dulcet shrills, and Mom and son are helped up off the birthing stool into the bed. Per everyone’s instructions, including second awesome midwife Michelle Wellborn (real last name), we go skin-to-skin and cuddle with the baby in the bed. The doula & midwife team proceed to clean up the house and make us some farm eggs and market-fresh veggies scrambled up from the fridge.
Chapter 9: In this corner…weighing in at…
Maria conducts the postpartum exam. She weighs and measures and listens. Here’s what she found out:
Length 20.5 inches
Weight: 6 lbs. 1 oz.
Hair: Blond
Eyes: (currently closed) Blue (at the moment)
Chapter 10: Dirty Diapers & the Revenge of the Castor Oil
Special secret chapter for baby class only!
So, everyone’s wondering, was there poop? Great question. Yes and no. The castor oil worked in that it caused her stomach to cramp up and jump-start the uterine contractions, but it didn’t have the bowel shaking earthquakes of doubt and remorse that were promised by CAKE. Don’t worry, that oil was definitely going the distance, waiting until we thought everything had calmed down. At about 11 p.m., some 9 hours after the arrival of O., I was in bed holding him and M. said she needed to go pee.
After she finished she stood at the bathroom sink in her special post-delivery gauze boyshort undies – outfitted with a massive post-delivery maxi pad – calmly filling the rinse bottle that the midwife provided (she had been instructed not to wipe). At that moment, she felt a rumble. Before she could finish filling the bottle, or even move the 20 inches to the toilet, an explosive geyser of castor oil-lava spilled forth, quickly filling her boyshorts/pad with the house’s very first dirty diaper. Who knew? Don’t play around with castor oil, I think it’s from the same plant they use to make ricin.
Day 3: The Postpartum Script
The baby has quickly taken to his new San Francisco lifestyle. In fact, he’s already quite the foodie—he’s particularly fond of free-range unpasteurized organic breast milk.
Our house now looks like the Playboy Mansion. Everyone is naked and lounging around in bathrobes. M. looks like she just invested 50k in breast augmentation; apparently Mother Nature is a boob man.
Le Fin (and by that I mean Le Beginning)~

Hospital 4.75 hours, no baby. Home 3.5 Hours, baby.  Point for Home.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Angelo Christopher Martinez’s Birth Story – Born May 27, 2013

My birth story is long overdue as my little man is now 24 weeks old. I wrote this as how I'll be sharing my birth story with him someday. Better late than never right!
Angelo Christopher Martinez’s Birth Story – Born May 27, 2013
My sweet Angelo, we had anxiously been awaiting your arrival but did not want to rush you in any way. There was talk of a full moon the Friday before you were born as it is believed that many women go in to labor during full moons. I did not feel that would be the case for you though, so I didn’t pay any attention to that. Besides you had to wait for Maria to get back in town!!! We knew you'd come when ready and were done cooking :-). You were due to arrive on 5/30/13 (right before my birthday) but decided to grace us with your arrival a bit sooner. I'm so glad you did!!!

Towards the end of my pregnancy I continued to stay as active as possible. That included going to Zumba regularly, taking many walks and keeping up with your two sisters. Dad and I were quite busy getting our home ready for you and clearing out as much clutter as possible. Here you are 39 weeks:
Our midwife Maria was away at a retreat that weekend and so I prayed that you wouldn’t come too early so that she’d be there for the birth. I remember saying many times that you’d come that Monday as she’d be back in town by then. I guess you were listening J. It was a normal busy weekend; the Saturday before you arrived I went to a bridal shower. Sunday I volunteered at a midwife class, where as many as 12 learning doulas felt you in my tummy. Now in retrospect I wonder if that got things going for you. It was such a beautiful day that we then headed over to the Palace of Fine Arts for a little stroll with your sisters.
On Monday May 27, 2013 I woke up around 2 am with a sudden urge to pee. I went to the restroom and nothing happened. Then again around 5:30 am. When I returned to bed, I felt mild lower back pain. This feeling was familiar and I had a feeling that perhaps it was early labor, I didn't want to get too excited just in case.

I figured I’d let your dad sleep as he’d need the energy later. I laid back in bed, but began timing the mild contractions in my head. They were irregular with some being about 15-20 minutes apart but very mild. My hands had been a bit swollen those last few days prior to labor and I had a feeling I'd get to meet you soon as I noticed some other changes in my body. That morning I went for a checkup with Maria at 8 am and it went well. You measured correctly at 39 weeks and I mentioned to Maria that I had been feeling the back pain and the contractions, though at that point I was not sure if they were just Braxton Hicks contractions or real contractions. Maria said everything looked good and that she may or may not hear from me later that day.

After the appointment I picked up some snacks and also picked up fresh bread and a pastry to share at home. I felt full of energy and in a great mood.

Then headed home and kept tracking the contractions. Your dad kept telling me to relax and rest but I just couldn't sit through the contractions. I kept getting up each time one came to breathe through them. Here you are that morning peeking through my shirt while still in my tummy:
I had promised your sisters that we'd have a family outing to Children's Fairyland that day since it was a holiday and there was no school. As the contractions continued I just knew there was no way I'd be able to spend the day laying around and siting through contractions. So I made sandwiches and packed lots of snacks for us to have at the park. Here they are. They were excited as they realized you’d come soon.
We picked up grandma on the way and off we went around noon to Fairyland (small theme park with lots of walking). As the outing progressed I felt the contractions coming and going and getting more intense and regular. Your dad called to check on me a couple of times and I assured him that the contractions were regular but not painful yet and that I may be in labor sometime that day. The contractions came and went and I stopped many times throughout the park to get through them with deep breathing. People would stop to ask if I was ok and I'd simply respond with: Yes, thank you. I'm just in labor J.

We made our way out of the park by 4 pm. Got through the bridge, dropped off grandma and made it home by 5:30 pm.

I walked in to find dad had set up the birth tub and it was ready to go (I got really excited; it began to feel real). The contractions were still pretty consistent with no changes so I began to clean house as I knew that we would be having company over soon. Your dad drifted off to sleep for a bit, and then suddenly woke up to one of my contractions as my breathing got louder and louder. I remember he asked at that point if we should call Maria or Krissi (your auntie and doula) and I told him it was not yet time.

6:30 pm came and your sisters got hungry so I began to make dinner while cleaning up and having some more contractions. I recall emailing myself at 7:47 pm as your sisters made me so proud. They had been playing so nicely with each other while I endured contractions all day.

Here is a picture of them playing dress up while waiting for dinner:
The contractions began to get closer together so I started tracking them with a phone app. They were about 7 minutes apart but not always 1 minute long so we checked in with Maria just in case. She said to call her back when they got to 4-1-1. This is what they looked like when I began to track:
So I kept tracking and trying to clean as I could not sit through the contractions. They were not painful per say, but rather intense. I mostly labored leaning over the kitchen counter, swaying my hips side to side and taking deep long breaths which really helped. I recall your sisters would come by as well to pat my back and smother me with kisses telling me I’d be ok. I managed to make dinner, but wasn’t hungry. Instead I drank lots of water and snacked here and there. At just about 9 pm dad went to drop off your sisters at tia Liana's house and pick up some last minute things. Your sisters Lila and Sophia were so excited. They knew that you were coming soon and couldn’t wait to meet you.

From that point on I had about an hour and a half of laboring on my own which was nice. I paced through our home, used the bathroom, tried different positions and took my breathing to another level. I hummed and took deep long breaths through the contractions (things I remembered from the breathing class Krissi and I took). By then the contractions got pretty close together. They were at 5-1-1. Dad had called a few times while out to see how I was doing. He later said that he could tell by my breathing that the contractions were stronger even though I was saying I was doing ok. So he called Krissi and asked her to make her way over to check on me. I had also been messaging with Krissi during the contractions. We thought it’d for sure be a long night and that I’d see her in the morning. I recall telling her that all I wanted was water and dark chocolate which was counterproductive to everyone’s advice to rest.

The contractions progressed so fast. I didn't think I needed to rush dad home. But right before he arrived I had a few contractions that were really close together. By now it was around 10:30 pm. Even when the contractions got really intense though, not for one second did I doubt my decision to birth you at home. It felt so right, so natural that I did not fight the contractions and tense up like I recall doing for your sisters’ births. Instead I consciously let my body do what it was trying to do and focused on breathing deep and long.

Here is how my contractions progressed:
So dad rushed home and as I was having an intense contraction he walked through the door. I could hear him reminding me to take deep breaths, that I was doing great and that it was going to be ok. He squeezed my hips to help with the pressure through a few contractions but still had to fill the birth tub. I had a few more contractions and they were now about 4-1-1. I guess I was waiting for more of a pattern before saying anything and within minutes as Chris was trying to fill the tub, I had a really intense and long contraction and my water broke right in our kitchen. Per the phone app this was at 11:10 pm. (good thing I was tracking). I could not believe it!!! Finally you were coming!!!

I was filled with joy as with each contraction I could feel you descending and making your way down. I was able to experience what the miracle of natural birth is. I remember thinking to myself: this is how it's supposed to happen. This is what my body was meant to do and this is what happens when you TRUST!!!

That's when we called Maria and Krissi to come on over. Maria had told me all along that since it was our 3rd birth that it would happen fairly quickly. She was not kidding!!!! From this point it all happened so fast.

I rushed over to take a shower and the contractions got more and more intense. I could barely move while in the shower and Chris reminded me (in a very sweet manner) that he was trying to fill the tub but couldn't while I was in there. These contractions were so intense that I could hardly move.
By the time I was coming out of the shower Maria arrived. I heard her cheerful voice and felt a sense of relief and excitement as she was there to guide us through.

I thought that at this point I'd be dilated to 7 or 8 and would still have time for the tub to get filled in time to give birth. Boy was I wrong!!! Maria made it here in about 13 minutes (she happened to be at another birth for a first time mama). By 11:30ish Maria checked me and said I was ready to push on the next contraction. I was in disbelief, shock and sooo excited. Of course though this meant no water birth since the tub was barely 1/4 of the way full. I recall breathing through the next contraction shortly after still in disbelief and not quite ready to push. We waited for the next contraction while I prepared myself mentally to push and greet you.

On the next contraction I could feel you descending and I reminded myself to let my body open (I kept picturing a flower blooming) and help you come out. It felt like I pushed with all my might yet it didn't feel like you had come out at all. Maria and Chris assured me they could see your little head.

A few minutes later another contraction came and I remember pushing, but it was rather a gentle almost effortless push this time. I wanted to ensure your transition from my womb in to the world would be as gentle as possible. Dad was holding my hand and taking video all at the same time to try and capture this special moment. I had closed my eyes and could feel the burning sensation and knew that was your head coming out. I was so focused on feeling you descend, pushing and my breathing that I didn't hear Maria the first time when she said to reach down and catch you. I did hear her the second time though. I looked down and I could see your head and shoulders. At that moment I reached down for you and pulled the rest of you out. It was surreal. I held you in disbelief and recall saying: my baby, my baby several times. I was now able to hold you in my arms and couldn't stop smiling while I looked at your sweet face. You were bright pink and just full of life.

Auntie Krissi heard me give birth to you right outside the front door. With all the commotion we did not hear her knocking, but she was there, present through it all and came in shortly after to meet you as well.

We named you:

Angelo Christopher Martinez
Born May 27th, 2013 at 11:45 pm
Weighed 7 lb. - 3 oz., 20 3/4 inches long

Words could not describe what I felt at that moment. I recall smiling from the moment I saw you for hours on end. I was on this amazing high knowing you were here as healthy as could be. You cried immediately, were bright pink and had tons of hair. I placed you on my chest where you calmed down. You looked beautiful, so peaceful, and just full of life. You nursed shortly after like a champ. Guess you were really hungry. We had wanted to keep your gender a surprise and it sure was. Papa Chris had to take a double look and confirmed you were a boy. Yes!!!!! We were so grateful for your arrival. Here is your proud papa:

One of my wishes when planning our home birth was to not cut your umbilical cord immediately and to have as long as possible to bond skin to skin with you. We got just that! I think it was at least 30 minutes of just us three gazing at each other. Papa was taking lots of pictures. We were in amazement of what had just happened. I didn't know birth could be this way. Our experience was so joyous, simple and natural. Shortly after, daddy cut your cord as it had stopped pulsating. Then daddy held you while I delivered the placenta.

I felt great and was ready to eat. Chris brought over some coconut water for me. It was delicious and auntie Krissi made me some scrambled eggs which I had with stewed meat and rice. Thank goodness for left overs. Chris spoon fed me while we talked for a bit. I thought that was so sweet!

Then Maria and Krissi stayed a bit longer to check on your vitals, observe you and ensure we were ok. You were weighed, had a vitamin K shot and got checked thoroughly. Having Maria and Krissi there before, during and after made a huge impact on our successful home birth. We will be forever grateful.
We eventually moved down to our bedroom and cuddled in our own bed with you and dad. I was too excited to sleep. I kept staring at you while also talking to Papa. The hour prior to your birth was so special for dad and I. We agreed to have made the right decision to have you at home. Although dad was supportive of any decision I would have made, he wasn't always on board with the idea of a home birth. However, after having experienced your birth he was convinced. The best part is that it was just us, no nurses or doctors in our room. No one was pacing in the hallway and checking on us every hour. I felt in such peace and quiet. It was pure bliss.

You slept swaddled for about 3 hours and then woke up to eat and be changed. Here you are just hours old unwrapped like the precious gift you are.
I would have liked for your sisters to be at the birth or there right after as we had watched a few home birth movies together to prepare them for it. However it was nice to have these moments to ourselves and enjoy you just like this.

Your sisters did get to meet you the next day once home from school. Here is the first time you all met:

That afternoon Maria came to check on you. Can you believe you were the 1110th baby delivered by her? AMAZING!!! I wouldn't change a thing about our home birth experience. It was wonderful to be surrounded by other mamas to be the months before you arrived; and also having Maria so involved with us after your birth as well. I wish I could do overs with your sisters and that I knew then what I know now about home birth.

Here you are with Maria at about 5 weeks old:

Angelo, you are a blessing to our family and have thrived since birth. I couldn't be a more proud mommy. So were and are so alert, aware and healthy. Here is the progress days after birth:

·         At birth 7lbs. 3oz.
·         The next day 6lbs. 15oz.
·         At 3 days 6lbs. 12oz.
·         At 10 days 7lbs. 5oz.

In retrospect, I recall being so much more present in this birth; being fully aware of what you and my body were doing as you got in position to meet us earth side.

I have been asked if I felt afraid of how a home birth could go wrong and how I could endure not taking any pain medication. I chose to have a home birth in my 7th month of pregnancy so it’s not like I knew all along that I’d chose this path. I did have a few moments where I did give in to the fear of what may go wrong. However, it was because of the wonderful people I surrounded myself with that I was able to push through and kept my birth choice. I knew it was the best for my family, myself and you Angelo.

What I’ve taken away the most from this experience is that breathing, tuning in to my body, trusting myself & my instincts made a world of difference. I wanted this home birth so badly for us that not once during labor did I consider going to the hospital at all.

I wish all moms to be were given the resources to learn as much as I did about home birth. Like I said before, I didn't know home birth could be this wonderful or that it is even an option. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

Here is Angelo today at 24 weeks old:

Monday, November 11, 2013

Priya Arbor’s Birth

May 1st, 2012

 The Sanskrit word Parampara means an uninterrupted row or series, order, succession, continuation, mediation, tradition, and refers to a teacher-disciple relationship that follows in a particular lineage of spiritual knowledge and experience.

In both of my experiences of birthing and pregnancy, I felt a strong connection to all the mothers before me, all the beautiful, strong mamas who’d birthed at home and had modeled for me the reality that birth is, at its unimpeded best, an organic, profound and powerful, painful and primal, cathartic and indelibly transformative experience for everyone involved.
With our second child, Priya, we were determined not to let the stresses of what we had deemed the “culture of fear” we’d experienced birthing our first child, Wylder, in the hospital invade what we knew could be a truly joyful and totally natural process. The way we moved into Priya’s birth was so relaxed, so at ease with the entire, whole process, intense and daunting and shakingly beautiful as it all is.
Throughout the pregnancy Maria held a space for us to create a reality of our faith in the natural procedures of life-making, and I felt so honored in her gentle, grounded, focused support of my belief and understanding of my body’s abilities.
I was relaxed when labor began, knowing I had some time, and that Maria would be with me when I needed her. We had a leisurely breakfast with our two-and-a-half year-old son, wandered down into the garden to soak in the sun and after thirty minutes or so I began to have to lean on the table and sway back and forth through the contractions, which were still totally handle-able and strong and wonderful, this surging tide that pulsed in me.
My partner called Maria to tell her things were getting going, and I talked to her to show her I could still talk through contractions, and we decided to call her back when it was getting more heated, and she’d come right away. She admonished me sweetly me not to wait too long, as the second baby often wastes no time, and my first hadn’t been a long labor either.
It became clear after a pretty mellow two hours with strong rushes about four minutes apart, lasting a minute or longer, and then growing closer and stronger, that labor was progressing fairly quickly. I wove my way through the rooms of the house without any real trajectory until I ran to the bathroom and threw up lots of the coconut water I’d been drinking all morning. I remembered throwing up lots in transition with my first baby, and I thought hopefully that it might not be too long after this that things got real… I felt happy and strong and excited to have this flowing in such an organic way. I knew the hard part was yet to come, but in contrast to the atmosphere of fear and doubt in the hospital during Wylder’s birth, and the intensity of contractions without any break in between (pitocin overdose), at home I could pay attention to what was happening inside. I felt the baby moving down, felt my body doing what it really did know how to do so efficiently and well, for which I am so incredibly grateful… It was simply woven in to the fabric of the day, the sunshine pouring in through the windows, the sound of Wylder playing out marvelous scenarios with his toys, the mystical, primal force of bringing forth life, accompanied here by my, um, birth opera as my husband called it -- the creative, debatably mellifluous, incredibly intense sounds I produced… Beginning sometimes as AUM and devolving into OOO…
Observing my pacing, my husband, Jerry, so calmly helped me out of my clothes and into the wonderfully warm bath he’d drawn for me in our big old clawfooted bathtub. The water felt amazinf, and I laid back, bracing my elbows on the floor of the tub, pushing my feet against the wall on either side of the faucet, rocking buoyantly with each rush as it gathered in me, moaning out the energy that felt huge and thunderous as it collected and grew and escaped through me. When I couldn’t talk through rushes anymore, with a bit of persuasion Wylder got out of the tub and went to play in the playroom with his uncle Seth. Somewhere in this span of time Jer had the presence of mind to call Maria back. I was impressed. I’d forgotten all about her in those ten minutes.
From there the work was intense, and I was seeing out through more of an inner eye than my physical two… I’d rock and moan and arch my back through the squeezing pain which was now really strong and close in frequency, trusting the path of the baby and the body to move in concert, feeling the purpose of the intensity and knowing [hoping] that it wasn’t long before she came. The water moved with me, echoing the motion of the waves of energy and pain within, and it seemed comfortingly circular: womb; wave; water; daughter.
Without having to ask when I needed him, Jer floated in and out of my vision, though as labor got deeper I closed my eyes to inside, the darkness there a necessary lessening of stimulus, the work within consuming. Jerry’s eyes were warm and calm when our gazes caught, and his hands reached out and held me from time to time as I arched and rocked through the contractions.
I heard Maria arrive and greet Wylder. It was lovely knowing she was there and at that her presence would mesh perfectly with the calmly buzzing energy in our house. It seemed to me that she had a gift of being there just exactly enough, reading the subtleties of energy and situation so well that she was never obtrusive when I was working internally, but holding space like a vibrant little redwood tree, shining a kind of quiet, wise, earthy light.
She came in and checked me and told me I was 9 1/2cm with a slight anterior lip of cervix which was when my inner dialogue got really snarky and irritated with the invasion of numbers into what was such a raw, organic mental space, even though some of me could still discern that those numbers meant that I was pretty close to getting this baby out into the world. A few moments later she checked me and delightedly announced that I was at 10cm, and that I could push whenever I felt like it. I think I said “I KNOW” through clenched teeth, but am not sure now whether that was out loud or part of that internal dialogue...
I remember pushing last time was almost less effort than letting the endless contractions pummel me, but this time the pushing, while relieving in the change of sensation, demanded incredibly focused effort, whereas with Wylder it was almost involuntary, but again the water bag stayed intact until Maria broke it on the second push, and she was fully born with the third push. All this took place in about four minutes. Maria had been there about 20 minutes when she was born!
The cord was short and had wrapped around her neck and wound under her arm, so Maria birthed her through it, which seemed somehow significant: she emerged through this connective tissue that was the last remnant of our shared body, emerging into her very own… Jerry helped her slip out and then she came up a bit blueish, and then she was on my chest and blankets were thrown over her, soaking up the warm water, and I cradled our sweet, perfect baby for a couple minutes. Then Jer cut the cord and we handed Priya to him, while my brother and Maria helped me out of the tub to birth the placenta.
Then we walked down the hall to our bedroom and snuggled up in our bed while Jer hosed down the tub. Wy was wide-eyed over his new sister, and the house settled into a sweet hush punctuated intermittently by Wylder’s awesome narrative chatter. We rested, then Maria weighed and measured Priya and watched her breathing and color, as she’d been a little slow to pinken up and was breathing a bit rapidly, but she settled in perfectly after a little while. I was warm and blissed out with my new babe snuggled on my chest, my sweet son running in and out to show his sister his books and toys. Maria calmly tidied up and checked on me just enough to give me time to rest and bask in Priya’s new presence while making sure all my needs were met. It felt amazing, and I love the memories of that time and the two weeks after. Even Wylder was calm and quiet (for the first and last time) as he felt the sacredness of the space and participated fully in holding it.


It was a magical birth for our little family. What a gentle, loving way for all our hearts and lives to expand! We are so enchanted and in love with our birth and our baby. I told Maria at Priya’s 10-day checkup that Jerry and I had joked about having a third baby just so we could work with her again…

Epilogue: Priya is now almost eighteen months old. She is amazing, a force to be reckoned with in beautiful, hilarious, and challenging ways. She is super healthy and happy, and we are still enamored with her birth. It was a gift, a shining series of moments. I feel so honored to be part of this ancient ritual and ever-evolving tradition, to be touched and be guided by the parampara, the great chain of Mothers and Midwives now and before.
Namaste. Blessings in birth and beyond.