Sunday, November 6, 2011

I Trusted Myself by Chelsea Torres

Believe it or not my labor began at Ikea in Emeryville.   I had spent the prior two weeks wanting desperately to go into labor, and had become obsessive and a bit down about the waiting period.  But that morning I woke up feeling bright, if not a bit humble, acknowledging that at just 39 weeks, it wasn’t up to me when it would happen.  I wanted to get out of town with my 2 boys, at 2 and almost 4 they also needed an adventure to get through the day.  I had a nesting urge and so the adventure was Ikea: picture frames, plants, and shelves, here we come!  It felt great to walk and let the boys run through the showroom, and at some point while testing beds we didn’t plan to purchase, I felt the first sharp cramping sensation.  I stayed calm, remembering it could mean another week as easy as it could mean today.  So I casually checked the time and moved onto the cafĂ©.  15 minutes, another one.  12:30pm.  Still, I was calm.  On to curtains and frames, another one.  On to plants and checkout, another one.  Every 15 minutes, sharp cramping, but totally manageable.  I just relaxed, took a breath, knowing it wouldn’t last more than a minute or two.  I could manage anything for a minute, right?  Back to the car.  As we are driving out the boys notice the railroad tracks.  Please can we watch for a train?  I didn’t know if they came sparsely or frequently, but everything felt a little magical and so, Yes.  Yes, we will wait for a train to go by.   First another contraction, then I hear the train, I think I am as excited as they are!  We all watch as it speeds by, right in front of our eyes.  I feel very connected to them, like we are all sharing the same feeling together.  In this euphoria we head home, the contractions are shifting between 10 and 15 minutes.  At home the nesting begins: framing photos, cleaning, hanging shelves, and then at 7-8 minutes apart, I call my husband.  It’s 4:30.  I give the midwife a heads up, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself.  Sure I need to pause when the rushes come, but they are not dominating me, yet.  Paul gets home and I decide we need to go to the grocery store.  I want the house well stocked for the birth and beyond.  On the drive I get a call from an old dear friend I haven’t spoken to in months.  She is a apprentice midwife and she is pregnant!  I tell her I’m in labor and we both giggle at the coincidence of her call.  She gives me her blessings for a beautiful and safe birth and we say goodbye.  In the grocery store, who do we run into but our midwife, Maria!  What a surprise, and another lovely serendipitous moment.  We agree we should all head home to eat dinner and catch up afterward.  We get home and call our close friend, Dave, to watch our boys.  Now, at 5-6 minutes apart, I am wanting to hold out until our children are sound asleep.  I get into a warm bath and munch on celery and crackers.  I turn out the lights and the boys come in to tell me they are getting things ready for the baby.  I realize I need my husband and ask that Dave put the children to sleep.  This is a leap of faith because we are the only ones who had ever put them to sleep, but magically, without a single cry, they fall asleep.  I lay in our bed, lights out, some candles burning, as my husband massages my back.  We laugh at the moment: candles, massage, nudity, and it makes us giggle that labor could seem so romantic!  Now, at 3-4 minutes apart, I ask Paul to call Maria.  She arrives just as a thick fog rolls in.  She checks me, I have a feeling I’m 3 centimeters.  I’m right.  I don’t feel discouraged, I know things will move quickly now.  Dave sets up the labor tub and I get in.  From there I just follow my instincts.  I stay loose, I stop timing contractions, I stop looking at the time at all.  I simply remember, stay loose, you can handle anything for a minute or two.  And that’s all I focus on, just the moment at hand.  From the outside my path seemed a little aimless.  I meander:  first to the tub.  Then on to the floor. Then to the couch.  Down the hallway.  Stopping at each spot for a contraction.  To the bathroom, to the bedroom.  5 centimeters.  From here I’m not sure what happened.  I wasn’t afraid, and I trusted myself.  I could feel her moving down, I felt at every moment I knew exactly where she was. Then I wanted to push.  Everyone said that sounded like a great idea.  I thought so too.  Dave has a solid frame so I asked if I could hold onto him while I pushed.  What are friends for?  And like this, with a couple pushes, out came our beautiful baby.  Her cry sounded so sweet, like a little song.  We actually didn’t know she was a girl yet.  We didn’t check right away.  We just savored the moment that this beautiful, whole being had been born.  What’s more is she was born at 12:45 a.m. on September 21st, which happened to be her brother’s 4th birthday!  The name came to us immediately: Francesca Olga Margaret.  Yes. That’s it!  

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Full Moon Baby by Audrey Haller

Marcello was born on a full moon, ten days before he was due. I started having very cramp-y Braxton Hicks contractions around 3am. My partner Josh heard me fussing and woke up around 4am. I still didn't think it was labor but josh thought it might be, I was convinced the baby would be late because I had read that so many first time mothers are late. As the feelings continued and intensified I realized Josh was right, this was labor. We stayed in bed till it got to intense to just lie still. I walked around the room some and went to the bathroom, but mostly rocked back and forth on my knees at the foot of the bed, my arms around Josh's waist, leaning my head on his chest during contractions and in between resting my head on his thigh. We moaned low together and labored together. I tried to relax into the contractions, to let them open me as fast as possible, to bring me my baby, to surrender to what was happening at every second as much as I could. I also kept thinking, "my body knows how to do this, let it happen. I am going to get huge, sooo big, open right up so my baby can come out easy."

Josh called Maria around 6am to tell her we were in labour, she said things sounded good, call back when it gets further along.  Josh and I moved back and forth from the floor to the foot of the bed, changing positions between contractions. When things got a little more intense, Josh called my mom, and we asked her to come over. Thinking she'd have a full day of hanging around during labor, my mom packed a bag with clothes book which it turned out she never needed... it's a bit of a joke now. Upon arriving she came right in to our bedroom and joined us on the floor rocking and moaning, massaged my back and legs, put socks on my feet and a heating pad on my lower back. Around this time Josh realized that we never got the final birth tub / sink hose connection so as to be able to fill our tub. So, we dutifully sent my dad on an early morning hardware store run. By the time he arrived with the connection and filled the tub I was fully dilated.

My contractions intensified quickly: between each I threw up a little until there was nothing left to throw up. I remember thinking, "I don't think I can do this for nineteen hours." I thought I would have a long labor because so many first time mothers do. That was certainly not the case for me! We decided we should call maria again---by now my contractions were four minutes apart, two back to back---and she said she would be right over. When Maria arrived I was deeply involved in laboring, my whole world was laboring. I could tell things were going on but it didn't really matter: only laboring mattered. You hear women report that birth felt like they were in another world, or high, but to me it felt like I was extremely here, very of this world, of this moment, like an animal. I was here on this earth to do one thing: get this baby out! Like a wave passing through me, a tsunami, it seemed unstoppable, the only thing to do was to surrender and ride the wave.

My mother always said to me that the body in labor won't give you more then you can handle. It was true---the pain got intense but it was never more then I could handle. While pregnant I read a lot of birth stories and thought a lot about my paternal grandmother, who, back in Ireland, had seven children, all home births. "If she could do it seven times," I thought, "I can do it once!"

As soon as Maria checked me she said I was fully dilated and if I wanted to, I could push. I didn't know what I wanted. I got in the tub for a while, which was very relaxing, yet still I had a limited desire to push. After one intense pushing effort Maria said, "That's great pushing! Now next time try to do it twice as hard for three times as long!" I remember thinking, "Is she crazy?! that's impossible!" But I tried. I tried pushing on the birthing stool. I tried pushing laying down on my side, which I hated. I yelled out, "I have to move!" Josh suggested we get back to our original position at the foot of the bed. That sounded right. Then I knew I was ready to Get This Thing Out!! I got loud and the pushing got serious! The baby began to crown, which was intense, it hurt, I could feel it stretching. Maria asked if I could wait and let it stretch, which I did, and was really glad about later: I didn't have any tearing or have to get stitches.

At 1:41PM, eleven or so hours after waking, Marcello was born at the foot of our bed, into his fathers hand's, a slippery little being from another world! I was on my knees, elbows on the bed; Josh caught him from between my legs and passed him through my legs up to my chest. I remember Josh calling out, so excited, "It's a boy!!"

Our baby was here! We both, baby and I, had worked hard to get him out, we were tired and I was hungry. Maria weighed and tested Marcello, made sure that I was all good, and then Marcello, Josh and I snuggled into bed altogether, a little family for the first time.

Reflecting on my home birth, two aspects seem most special to me: the intimate beginning stages of laboring with my partner Josh; and with Marcello finally in my arms, being able to lie in bed, the three of us enjoying the afterglow.