Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Sweet Reward by Joy (Part Three)

I thought about all my friends who had contributed a bead to my Blessingway necklace, I thought about all the mama’s before me who had given birth, I thought about how during a long climb on the bike sometimes you just want to quit but you can’t ‘cause you know that once you get to the top there will be a sweet reward.  Come on Baby G, we can do this!  Let’s DO THIS!  

Once back on the birthing stool I knew this would be it.  I felt a ring of sting during the first set of contractions but no Baby G yet.  I pushed and pushed but my body was tired.  I thought about how during a bike sprint your legs just want to lock up after your first jump and you keep down shifting to get more torque and speed, you have to take your adrenaline and energy to mentally psyche yourself out to keep going.  This is what I thought about when sitting on the birthing stool!  “PUUUUUSH!!!  Down shift.  COME ON JOY!!!!”  Down shift.  “YOU CAN DO IT!!!!”  Down shift.  “HERE COMES THE BABY!!!!”  The ring of sting was overwhelming, I pushed with everything I had and then it disappeared.  Jamie’s hands caught Baby G.  The air was still and Baby G’s cry was like music to my ears.  BABY G IS A GIRL!  SHE’S AMAZING!  

Date: Sunday, September 18, 2011 4:00 PM
Subject: Our new addition is here!!!!

Hi Everyone!

We are pleased to announce the arrival of Celeste Napali Gilpin!  Joy and Celeste are doing wonderful after a beautiful home birth.   She was born here in the Presidio at 5:44 am today, weighs in at 7 lbs 7 oz (3.37 kg), and is 20 inches (50.8 cm) long.

More information soon.  We are focused on learning how to be parents right now so hold tight.  Keep your eye on Facebook and email for more info and pics.

Love - Jamie, Joy, Celeste, and Eddy

PS - Spread the word!  So please feel free to forward this on to others.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Sweet Reward by Joy (Part Two)

When we returned to our building for the second time that day, I felt a contraction coming on at the base of the stairs.  While draped over Jamie, I let the energy out with my deep birth cry.  The increased pressure down there along with my scream resulted in a pop and release of warm fluid rushing down my legs filling my boots and creating a puddle by my feet.  I pointed down to the ground during my contraction, which puzzled Jamie.  When the surge passed, I asked, “Is this what you mean?!?”  Everyone laughed.  Lu kindly hosed off the amniotic fluid for the sake of our neighbors.  With Jamie’s help, I went upstairs and stepped into the shower.

I was on all fours in the shower; the warm water provided a massage as it pelted onto my back.  I had several contractions in the shower and wailed away during them.  There’s no doubt that my neighbors can hear me, I hope they don’t mind!  It was a quarter to 5pm and I was feeling a strong urge to push accompanying my contractions.  I told Maria about this and wondered if this meant I was fully dilated.  After the shower, Maria had me lay on our bed for the second time that day and checked my cervix...I was 6 cm dilated, which meant I couldn’t push yet!  Hmmmm, but my body is telling me to push during the contractions!  How do I work with this?

Maria instructed me to blow through the urge to push, she also told me that my cervix was mostly in the front and that I should avoid being on all fours.  This would assist opening of the cervix by not adding unnecessary pressure to that area.  She also mentioned that if I did push during the contractions, while not fully dilated, my cervix may get swollen and this would make it more difficult to become fully dilated.  Whoa, so I need to tell my body NOT to push even though that’s what my body is signaling to my brain?!?!  Imagine having diarrhea and not being able to push it out because you aren’t at the toilet yet.  Like you have been holding it for HOURS but you just can’t shit your pants, - that’s how much pressure I felt down there with each contraction.  There’s no release, you CAN’T release ‘cause your cervix isn’t fully open yet, (and if you do push, well, there may be a trip to the hospital and I definitely did not want that) so you have to release the energy somewhere, and that’s what I did...

Here is what I remember about the next several hours:

  • The quality of the contractions to follow and how I dealt with them was much different than the contractions before our second walk that day.  
  • I was breathing differently during the contractions, as if blowing out a candle a foot away from my face with strong hard breaths and pursed lips.  
  • Every other contraction I was able to overcome the urge to push and “blow it away” (I was pretty quiet and Maria had to ask me when my contraction had stopped...some of them felt like I was blowing away the urge to push for a loooong time!)
  • I thought about how my breathing was similar to how you breathe when you’re on the bike climbing and going anaerobic.  You get into a rhythm.  
  • Every other contraction the urge to push was just TOO strong.  Even though I had to tell my body NOT to push, my body surrendered to the urge and I felt like a bucking bronco as my brain and body conflicted with this.  (Think about how a fish flops around when they are out of the water, that’s how I looked during these surges.)
  • I was LOUD!
  • I visualized my breaths blowing open my cervix!
  • I was in the tub and Jamie had a compress on my butt to prevent my hemorrhoids from getting worse.  Lu was stroking my hair.
  • Jamie whispering encouraging words in my ear about riding bikes in the Alps.
  • Toasted crumpets from Trader Joe’s with butter, honey, and sea salt cut into bite sized pieces.
  • Hypnobabies playing in the background.  Today is your birthing day...
  • Forcing my chin up during the contractions, even though I wanted to bear down.
  • Relaxing my face and shoulders, and being VERY conscious of the effort to do so.
  • Thanking everyone after a set of contractions.  Subconsciously thanking the contractions for bringing Baby G closer to me.

Almost 2 hours into the VERY-strong-urge-to-push-but-cannot-part of my labor, I got out of the tub.  My bladder felt engorged, I attempted to pee but nothing came out!  I stood in the shower, bent over with my hands resting on the hot and cold faucet knobs (remember, I could not be on all fours!) and tried to relax and pee, but even my urethra couldn’t release!  I think I was in there for what seemed to be at least 10 minutes.  Maria said she could catheterize me to release the pee.  I freaked out.  I didn’t want MORE discomfort!  I listened to the water, I thought about waterfalls, I recalled how this sensation was exactly like the one when you have to pee SO BAD, and you’ve been holding it for SO LONG that it takes like 30 seconds before you start to pee, and when you do it burns a little at the beginning.  I had that burning sensation a few times and thought Oooh, this is it, my pee is going to come out!  But it didn’t, so I agreed to have a catheter put in me for the first time in my life.

I resumed the exam position on our bed; on my back with my legs spread.  My bladder was so full that I had a separate pooch from my baby pooch.  Lu even said that my bladder was so large that she thought that the baby may have turned and her mind started to stir.  After 750cc’s of urine drained out of me, I felt MUCH better.  We used the old Brita pitcher to contain the pee.  Ha, I will always think of being cathed when I see a Brita pitcher now!  There may be nothing worse than the feeling of being cathed, but there is: having a contraction with the urge to push-but-you-can’t while being cathed!  I was 7 cm dilated.  

I got back into the tub and breathed, bucked like a rodeo bull, listened to Hypnobabies, drank more (but not as much, cause I feared that I would fill my bladder again and have to get cathed sooner than later), kept my chin up, visualized blowing my cervix open.  I even divulged to Maria some childhood stuff that I had intended to tell her prior to the birth during one of our visits, but always forgot to.  I thought that perhaps this information might be blocking my cervix from dilating quicker.  I read about a birth in one of Ina May’s books where after many hours of labor, the birthing mama’s cervix progressed and dilated quickly after she admitted some of her fears to the midwives.  So while we were in the tub and Maria was sitting on the sofa, in between my bucking bull contractions I told her some stuff that I only share with close friends.  And just like a best friend, Maria listened intently and asked genuine thought provoking questions.  

It was 11pm, we got out of the tub and moved to the bedroom.  The game plan was to get some rest.  My contractions were even stronger now with the urge to push growing steadily.  It felt like I had a poking coconut-head!  Maria said she would check me again at 3am, but if I felt that the baby was dropping and the pressure was increasing she would check me earlier.  

During the contractions I remember Lu massaging my hips and legs, Jamie lying next to me face to face, my hands squeezing his.  The pattern resumed with my blowing away the urge to push with the contractions, and with the urge to push taking over my body and me bucking hard on my side.   I started to feel my back cramping in between contractions.  It was becoming difficult to relax as my muscles were fatigued and seizing from the bucking.  Later Lu told me that I looked at her and said, “I’m beginning to have doubts.”  I remember weighing the risks and benefits of driving to UCSF.  How long will it take to get to UCSF?  How shitty would it be to have a contraction in the car?!  I don’t know how much longer I can do this!  I think I need an epidural.  What if I’m not fully dilated when Maria checks me again?    

For sustenance, I had a GU and water sometime past midnight.  Lu had cut up a baby watermelon into bite-sized pieces and my spirits lifted.  That was exactly what I needed!  The cool sweetness and juicy bits satiated me.  My confidence was starting to waver and I had to tell myself to stay positive.  I continued to visualize my breaths blowing my cervix open and hearing Maria say I was fully dilated.  At 2:30am I told Lu that I wanted Maria to check me at 2:45am.  That’s a good compromise.  I will give my body a little more time to open up.  Please be a 10, PLEASE!  Just before 3am, Maria checked me.  I remember the look of concentration on her face.  “We’re where we want to be.  You’re fully dilated!”  

Lying on my back, I remember the muscles on my face forming into a smile while slowly raising my hand to give everyone a high five.  “You mean I can push now?!”  I asked.  

I couldn’t have been happier.  I could FINALLY push!  Now this was a challenge for my mind to grasp since I had been forcing my body to overcome the urge to push for the last 10+ hours.  I had to wrap my mind around the fact that I could actually push.  OK!  Change in game plan!  YOU CAN PUSH NOW!  

For the next two and half hours I pushed.  Here is what I remember:
  • Getting cathed one more time so that Baby G had as much of an opening as possible.
  • I was so exhausted that I was falling asleep in between sets of contractions.
  • I pushed in 7 different positions*
  • For more than half of the sets of contractions, I had to rely on my mental state and environmental factors to initiate my body to have a contraction and push.
  • We listened to my energizing playlist, when a song came on that wasn’t energizing enough I had Lu skip to the next song.
  • The quality of my breath and how I dealt with the contractions was much different than before.  Contrary to what we were told in my prenatal yoga class, I had to hold my breath while pushing.  I was releasing too much energy from my throat and out my mouth, when I needed to be releasing energy down my core and out my yoni.  
  • In our Bradley class we were told about the “Ring of Fire” which is a burning sensation you feel when the baby’s head is crowning.  I didn’t feel a Ring of Fire, I felt a “Ring of Sting!”
  • Everyone offering words of encouragement when I would have a contraction.  It felt as if I had my own cheering section.  This really helped me push and stay focused.  In fact, there was 1 time when it was silent during my contraction and I couldn’t really get into the push.  I communicated to everyone that I really appreciated the cheers and I needed the words of encouragement to get Baby G out!
  • Our apple TV scrolling through our photos on the TV and feeling as if our friends and family were in the room with us.
  • Lu handing me a teacup full of warm miso soup to keep me going. 
  • Talking out loud to Baby G in between contractions and telling him/her how we were ready to meet him/her.

Another amazing midwife named Sue arrived and we moved to the main room.  I was on the birthing stool when I first felt Baby G’s hair.  This is really happening!  We’re about to finally meet Baby G!!!!  We moved to the tub since we intended on having a water birth.  Jamie and I engaged in some nipple stimulation.  This seemed to work, however the warm water was also extremely relaxing.  I encouraged Jamie to do some clitoral stimulation since I had to rely on extrinsic triggers to initiate my contractions.  Believe it or not, I had a short but satisfying orgasm and a contraction followed.  I pushed and pushed and Baby G just wasn’t coming out!  In fact, Baby G’s heart rate had dropped significantly enough such that Maria had us get out of the tub.  I remember hearing the difference in Baby G’s heart rate on the Doppler.  This definitely caught my attention and everyone was calm.  

We resumed on the sofa.  I was lying on my right side and as I was falling asleep I would force myself to bring my left leg up to bring on a contraction.  Stay focused.  We’re soooo close!  I recalled another Ina May birth story where the birthing mama’s cervix closed after being fully dilated!  I can’t let that happen to me!  I found that for over half of the contractions, I had to mentally bring on the first contraction, then my body would take over and the next surge would be more visceral and I could REALLY push.  Baby G’s heart rate returned to normal, but I was so comfortable I was falling asleep.  This position was no longer working for me.  “I think I need gravity’s help.  Let’s move back to the birthing stool.”

* Side-lying on our bed, side-lying on the sofa, sitting on the birthing stool, side-lying on the floor, in the tub, back to side-lying on the sofa, and sitting on the birthing stool.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Sweet Reward by Joy (Part One)

It is just over 24 hours after Celeste’s birth and I’m lying in bed with her to my right, staring through tears at her gorgeous little face.  As the sun rises, I think about how I should have known my labor was going to be as challenging as it was, because after all we did travel to 5 different countries while I was pregnant.  We went zip lining and repelling in Costa Rica, continued to do amazing bike rides here in the bay area, rode bikes in Panama and in Switzerland, drove some of the most beautiful roads in the French Alps and Pyrenees (ascended over 120,000 feet in 50 days), and flew back to the states at week 33.  To top it all off, I was a bridesmaid in my best friend’s wedding 4 days before Celeste’s due date.  So from the beginning, in utero, I was already challenging her, and she was challenging me.  

The following email is from me to my dear friend Laura (aka Lu mama or Lu).  Laura was an invaluable part of our birthing team at home.  She has recently finished her midwifery program and played the role as our overqualified doula!  My due date was September 14.

date: Tue, Sep 6, 2011 at 10:12 PM
subject: Re: hey girlie

lu mama,

thank you for the lovely email and the vit K and eye drop info.  that's actually how we were leaning (yes on K/no on eye drops) and your input pretty much solidified our decision.  

well, i'm feeling ready, i mean mentally ready...not feeling quite physically "ripe" yet though but getting close.  evenings are the most uncomfortable but tolerable.  getting in and out of bed requires more brain power than i'm used to.  hypnobabies is definitely coming to my aid.  i have listened consciously to most of them, although i usually end up falling asleep and then waking up in the middle of one.

the past few days (ever since i stopped working) have been wonderful and full.  every day there is something to accomplish, baby stuff is all washed and put in it's place, fridge and pantry are stocked full of food and good eats for a while, and JOY biscuits have been baked (although i would like to bake a few more batches, and 1/3 deliveries have been made)...we have an appt with maria tomorrow along with an appt with a potential pediatrician.  i've been going to yoga and swimming which has been awesome as well!   

we've watched orgasmic birth and i have to say, i think it's VERY possible with me.  in fact i've been having pretty sexual dreams lately and even had one dream that i started to feel contractions with a menstrual cramp like feeling and was like OH this is IT!  i've been WAY more attentive to how much moisture i have down there too.  nothing out of the ordinary so far.

so i don't know if i told you this, but car's wedding is on the 10th.  i'm a bridesmaid, but with little responsibilities.  i plan on showing up unless i'm in labor!  it's a super low-key-casual-backyard love celebration with ribs and potato salad and karaoke.  once the wedding is over, i know i will feel more grounded.  now i just feel like i'm in a holding pattern but open to the possibility that baby G will come when he/she is ready.  although, just today i was talking to a girlfriend and was feeling and saying that i think baby G will come closer to the due date...only time will tell.  i see the harvest full moon is on the 12th-hmmmmm.

btw, i've been envisioning a pretty quick labor (like less than 24 hours from the very first contraction when i know to put on my blessingway necklace to 3rd stage), and way less than an hour of actual pushing.  the middle time i've been thinking about walking, enjoying the daylight, stretching, doing all the poses we've learned in bradley and yoga birthing class, and having a fresh, simple but wholesome meal all while listening to my mixes and maybe even watching some bike racing.  i've been thinking a lot about when i've had to dig deep mentally and physically and the closest analogy i have is bike racing or long ass climbs where i get into a rhythm and get into the zone.

ok hon, enough for now.  time for this mama-to-be to go to bed.  if we don't end up going down to mtn view on friday for whatever reason, would you like to head this way?  that way you'll have some time to settle into your new abode and environment.  a trip to the city for some fresh ocean air will be refreshing and it'll be good to catch up with you in the flesh.  also, we can talk about how/when i should contact you once i'm in the baby G birth zone!

love you bunches!
-mama G

Car is my best friend from 2nd grade and I was fortunate to make it to the wedding!  Reading that email makes me smile and laugh out loud, especially the paragraph with my envisioned labor and delivery details...HA, if I only knew!

Our plan was to keep quiet until after the birth.  We did not share when I started labor as we felt that it would increase the phone calls and texts, and we wanted that time to be solely focused on bringing baby G into the world.  The following “waiting room” email is something I sent out to some friends and family to ease the anxiety and excitement that came with the 14th, since that was baby G’s due date.  Emails, texts, phone calls, facebook messages, and such were stirring and we felt the need to respond...(Actually, this email was intended for some extra support for my mom and Jamie’s mom-the new grandmas, as they were going a little stir crazy!)

date: Thu, Sep 15, 2011 at 5:20 PM
subject: the "waiting room"

hello loved ones!

as you may know, we are planning a home birth here in the presidio to be attended by our midwife, her assistant, our doula, jamie, eddy, and myself.  we realize that since there is no physical "waiting room" it's a unique situation especially for the soon-to-be-grandparents!

SO, consider this your "virtual waiting room" and a little note to say that all is well.

you will find out when baby G joins us via email or phone call (well BEFORE it goes public on facebook!).

please feel free to email or call one another!

we love you all and know that you are thinking of us especially at this time.  oh yeah, and if we don't respond to a text, email, or call it's just 'cause we're enjoying each other, and trying to be as low key and relaxed about our little new arrival...


ps. NO, we haven't started labor!!!!   

Wednesday and Thursday came and went.  But Thursday late late night is when things started happening, like early first stage type of things!  In the following email I communicate with Lu to let her know what’s going on, even if she doesn’t read it until later on Friday morning.  Judah is Lu’s son (he turns 2 on September 18th) and Eddy is our rescue greyhound.  

date: Fri, Sep 16, 2011 at 4:26 AM
subject: hillo, good morn!

lu mama,

my third eye is telling me to contact you...

after dinner we watched a moobie, then i went to the bathroom and saw some blood on my undies, mucous plug perhaps?  then i saw a small clot in le toilette-it was 11:15pm.  we went to bed around 12:30 after i had what i'm pretty positive was my first contraction!

we've been sleeping, although i've been up to pee at least 3x.  contractions have definitely started to be more frequent but no 4-1-1 yet.

call jamie when you're up with the sun.  baby G may just want to arrive before judah's birthday!  jamie mentioned something about you taking the BART over and hopping in a cab (even though your presidigo idea was brilliant), then when you arrive he'll come outside and pick up the tab.

love u,
-mama G

That first contraction was exactly what I heard and read about: a Braxton Hicks contraction coupled with a menstrual cramp sensation.  Friday was a beautiful sunny day in the city with bluebird skies accompanied by a light breeze.  Throughout the previous night, my contractions woke me.  I would squeeze Jamie’s arm once to indicate a contraction was starting, twice to indicate the contraction had finished.  Jamie would then press a button on his phone using an application he found for tracking contractions.  

When we felt the surges getting more significant, I decided to put on my Blessingway necklace my close friends made for me.  Sometime before 5am, the necklace was placed around my neck after I sent Lu the email above.  I looked at Jamie and said, “We may meet Baby G at this time tomorrow,” as my intentions were to give birth within 24 hours of putting the necklace on.  Ha! My intentions are usually made with a desired outcome in mind, not a specific timeline.  How quickly I forgot that Mother Nature couldn’t be rushed.

The morning’s activities were uneventful.  We contacted Maria to tell her my contractions had started the previous night.  Lu and I texted each other to give updates.  Jamie and I walked our dog, Eddy, up Lovers’ Lane in the Presidio to the top of the Lyon street steps.  I had gone up and down the upper half of the steps 4 times the day before while envisioning Baby G’s head getting settled into my pelvis with every step.  I figured I could do the steps and stop if I had a contraction.  I ended up going up and down 4 times again, except this time I had a secret-I was in labor!!  I felt an urge to tell everyone, but I held back.  My due date was 2 days ago people!  So what if I’m going slow?!  I had a few mild contractions at the top, which I breathed through with my hands on my knees.  I walked up and down those Lyon street steps with a purpose, while tourists marveled at the view and locals did their step workouts.

During that afternoon we took Eddy and our neighbor’s dog Kyo, a Rhodesian Ridgeback, to the ball field up the street from our apartment.  More walking, yes!  This is pretty much what I envisioned with the beginning of labor: a beautiful sunny day being spent outside with Jamie and Eddy.  With this walk, we were accompanied by our neighbor who was also pregnant and due 5 days after me!  I had a few contractions during the walk and at the ball field with the dogs running around.  The contractions were still pretty sporadic and mild (relatively speaking;)), however I started leaning on Jamie during them.  When we returned from our walk, I looked at this chart in our Bradley Method book entitled “Overview of Birth and Labor” and something definitely caught my eye.  Under the “Needs” column it said to “Keep busy and don’t become too excited. This may or may not be actual labor.”  Huh, how long could this early first stage possibly last?!

Later on that day, we decided to go out to dinner.  While in the shower, I noticed a bright red blood clot on the floor of the tub.  I reached down to feel where it came from, I felt a thick mucous-y substance and saw even more blood.  OHH, THIS is the mucous plug! Not that bit of spotting I saw last night.  This was definitely more substantial and well, plug-like.  There was NO doubt that what I was seeing in the shower was my “bloody show.”  Eeeee!  A surge of excitement came over us as we got ready for dinner.  We ended up walking to La Terrasse, one of our favorite French restaurants in the city.  Lucky for us, La Terrasse is a short 15 minute walk from our apartment sans contractions, 20-30 minutes with contractions!

La Terrasse was lovely as always and I ordered my favorite dishes.  This could possibly be our last dinner as parents-to-be instead of PARENTS!  Again, I felt an urge to tell everyone who we interacted with that I was in labor.  And we did, or at least we told the wait staff and the people sitting next to us.  Exclaiming I was in labor had a dual purpose that evening: 1. To share our excitement and great news, and 2. To inform people that my occasional deep breathing and light moaning was due to a contraction!

When we arrived home from dinner, Jamie set up our rented Aqua Doula, filled it with water, and put the insulation cover over the water to keep it warm.  Ohhh, another benchmark - setting up the tub!  My contractions were getting stronger and I was doing cat cow poses during them while still in bed.  Jamie started applying pressure to my hips during the surges and we played my relaxing playlist of songs to pass the time.  Candles were lit around the apartment to provide a cozy calm feel.  Jamie had cut up a Luna bar and put orange segments on a cutting board.  The orange was juicy and cool and I ate almost all of it, the Luna bar was too dry and I only ate one bite size piece.

Lu arrived around 3AMish and in her calm and positive way assessed the situation.  We got her up to date on my contractions and decided that Jamie should get some sleep while she kept me company.  Lu and I stepped outside on our deck with me wrapped up in a blanket.  The early morning was cool and the dark sky had a glow from the moon.  I told Lu about my friend’s mom back in Panama who has had 7 vaginal births!  She says that childbirth is analogous to pooping out a coconut!  

The intensity of these contractions had definitely gone up a notch from my contractions when I went to bed.  My deep breathing was now accompanied by more audible moans and I had started to feel more pressure in my pelvic floor.  There is that coconut pushing down on my cervix and pelvis!  I vaguely remember a mosquito buzzing around (I’m horribly allergic) so we stepped back inside.  After a couple of hours of contractions, we decided to ditch the contraction app and get a more organic qualitative feel for the surges.  

I got into the tub for the first time and the warm water instantly provided relief to my body and mind.  I am a bath person, so I knew the tub was going to be a huge asset during labor but I didn’t anticipate it would feel this good!  I felt weightless, the warmth of the water brought an aspect of relaxation that one could only know while in labor.  I found comfort in leaning back with my head resting on a towel draped over the side of the tub, and from being on all fours with my head resting up against the towel.  We put a wash cloth in the tub so that I could cover my chest to keep it warm while I leaned back.  After a while we also added an old Brita pitcher to the tub so that Lu or Jamie could pour water over my back while I was on all fours and having a contraction.  
Before I knew it, morning came and I could see sunlight peeking in through the drapes.  While I was happy to see the sunrise, I wasn’t feeling entirely ready to transition into the day.  This would mean blowing the candles out, and to me candles symbolize warm comfy relaxation.  I wanted the sun to linger behind the trees for a while.  After all, I was in my ZEN cocoon: focusing on breathing through my contractions while relaxing in the water and listening to my relaxation playlist!  

Sure enough, the drapes were drawn open and the sun rose over the trees, in a few hours sunlight would spill into our main room where the tub was.  But I want my ZEN candles and calm candlelit space!  Oh well, I can always close the drapes later to achieve the same effect, right?  Eventually, I did close them up again to block the bright sunlight, and then Maria arrived!  It was just before 8 AM.    

That morning was the beginning of Lu providing me (and the whole birth team) with flavorful and wholesome nourishment.  I remember the most amazing oatmeal that morning; it was wonderfully warm and agave-sweet with a little sea salt.  It was the perfect texture - not too lumpy but also not too watery.  I ate my whole bowl while sitting in the tub, talk about comfort!  Then I got out of the tub and Maria examined me while I lay on my back on our bed.  

It was difficult not to think anything like Please say I’m greater than a 5! or I hope I’m at least a 5 ‘cause that would mean I am halfway there, right?  Maria said I was a 4 and I was happy but shocked at the immensity of how much a number can make you feel.  That is less than 5!  In my fuzzy but somewhat clear mind I remember feeling a little down, my contractions had slowed and they weren’t picking up in frequency.  The intensity of them was also pretty inconsistent.  Like most everything in the world, my contractions were non-linear and definitely not progressing textbook style.    

Baby G was also at station -1 and I was 80% effaced.  I quickly calculated and thought about how we were definitely more than 24 hours from when I put the Blessingway necklace on.  With my inconsistent contractions, there was no way to predict when I would be fully dilated.  My ego wanted to be able to predict and control the process.  Oh well, my body will do what it needs to do.  It’s not all about the numbers and trying to get that 4-1-1, or is it?!

Maria recommended we open the drapes and get some energy into the apartment!  She also recommended walking and squatting to welcome the contractions.  We set up a circuit where I would have a few contractions at different “stations” in the apartment.  The stations were a good way for me to keep my blood circulating and for me to move about.  I sat on the glider and leaned forward on Lu or Jamie while they sat on the ottoman and we would glide in sync.  I sat and did hip circles on the birthing ball.  I was on all fours on my yoga mat leaning forward on the birthing ball.  I did hip circles with one leg up on a chair in the kitchen.  I walked into Baby G’s room and leaned over on the crib.  I went into our room and leaned over on our bed.  I remember the contractions in the kitchen being the most intense.  I remember some one's hands on my hips pressing my pelvis together towards my sacrum and really liking it.  I started to feel pressure on my hemorrhoids during the surges and we made a witch hazel compress which I placed in between my butt checks.  This provided a nice cool sensation and a large wet mark on my underwear!

After about 2 or 3 circuits, Maria suggested that we go for a walk, and get some fresh air.  I was to welcome the contractions, do squats, do whatever I needed to do.  She said something about energy and that I needed to release, open up, and let the energy OUT.  In hindsight, I was still in my ZEN birthing state, and Maria was getting me to transition into the “bring it on” state.  She also mentioned something about how I was breathing during the surges and how I needed to really let it out.  Huh, I feel like I AM letting it out!  Any louder and the neighbors will surely hear me!  Our neighbors knew we were doing a homebirth, and I’m not the type who is easily embarrassed.  But for some reason I was holding back.  Going for that walk was like a slice of cake from heaven allowing me to be as loud as I could possibly be!

Saturday morning in the Presidio brings a lot of hikers, bird watchers, joggers, and families out to take a stroll, especially on a sunny Saturday morning!  Lu, Jamie, and I walked along MacArthur Road.  I did a few squats and sure enough, I would have a contraction shortly afterwards.  I draped myself over Jamie’s shoulders while he bent his knees (he’s 1 foot taller than me!) and supported me.  Lu took pictures and smiled at all the passersby as well.  A runner ran by and cheered us on, an older couple passed us and asked if they could do anything.  Young families with their strollers smiled while walking by.  The runner cheered us on again when she passed a second time exclaiming, “You can do it!  I was just there a few months ago!”  When we reached the brick bridge on Lovers’ Lane we stopped.
It was at this bridge looking at the eucalyptus trees where I had an epiphany - the visceral kind that makes you laugh and cry at the same time and say to yourself, “I GET it, now I really TRULY GET IT.”  The kind of realization where your mind and body grasp that cliché saying to a whole new level of not just understanding, but RELATING TO.  Putting this moment into words is a challenge because I know that reading this does not measure up to the intensity of the event.  I remember having a contraction and REALLY letting go, virtually screaming and moaning simultaneously - it felt SO GOOD!  I was letting the energy out, just like Maria had said.  I didn’t care about the people walking by…We are HAVING A BABY!

On our way back to the apartment we decided to do a squat at every lamp post (I am a very visual person, even when I ride my bike I give myself landmark goals).  Every squat brought on a contraction that I welcomed with all my being.  We ran into Hope, an 11 year old shepherd retriever mix.  HOPE!  You are EXACTLY what I need!  How did you know?!  She looked vibrant and had a more than usual lightness to her energy.  She leaned on me while I pet her freshly groomed fluffy fur.  Our crossing paths with Hope was another sign to me that this was REAL, and just saying her name out loud made me cry.  Geez, this is the largest natural high I’ve had since my wedding day.  I remember Lu saying my eyes were glassy clear and bright* while we talked in between contractions about my enlightened birthing perspective.  THIS is true hard-core surrender…

We returned to the apartment with great news to report to Maria!  Even though the contractions were still inconsistent and dependent on the squats, I felt energized.  I let my oxytocin-riddled brain drop the desire to know numbers that was Maria’s job.  My job was to welcome the surges, rest in between, and go with it.  I am OPEN to the energy of birth!  Lu prepared poached eggs with avocado and fresh parsley on toasted pumpkin seed bread.  I ate a slice and Maria made a proposal: You can rest or we can do some things to bring on your contractions even more, but I need your full commitment!  “Can I do both?” I asked.  “Yes!” Maria responded.

Jamie and I retreated to the bedroom and napped, I had contractions about 8-10 minutes apart during our nap.  I woke up rested an hour and a half later, then everyone got up and we regrouped.  The pressure in my bottom was growing during the contractions.  It felt like a coconut had come down a station.  Maria placed acupuncture needles on the same spots Jamie had been applying pressure to on my body.  We started this routine after Car’s wedding.  We learned about these points in our Yoga and Massage for Labor class we took with the Marbles at the Mindful Body.  I drank an herbal tincture every 15 minutes for just over an hour while I had the needles in my body.  I continued my circuit but detoured from the kitchen, as it was difficult to get one leg up on a chair while standing!

I decided to take a shower and try to pee before Maria took the needles out.  I drank a lot of grapefruit juice diluted with water, water, and nuun electrolyte drink.  I was definitely hydrated and peeing was becoming increasingly difficult.  That morning before the walk, I had discovered the only way my body was going to urinate was to stand or squat in the shower with the water running.  

Maria took the needles out and I exclaimed that I wanted to go for a walk!  I think this surprised everyone.  We went a different route and brought Eddy with us.  I have, but I was happy to be outside.  Eddy would wedge himself in between Jamie and I when I would have a contraction.  My water had not broken yet and I started to ask questions.  “So I heard that some women experience a slow trickle over time, will I know when my water breaks?”  Both Lu and Maria assured me that I would definitely know when my water broke.  A “huge gush of warm liquid” was how I recall it being described to me.  

* When we came home I looked in the mirror and was surprised to see that despite my crying Lu was right, my eyes were clear and bright.  The sclera part of my eyes were milky white, they weren’t bloodshot at all!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Birthing Rhys by Loraine

It began with an urge to visit the ocean. I had felt centered and “ready” throughout my pregnancy, yet all of the sudden at almost 39 weeks I was on pause.. Something inside me seemed to be waiting.  It told my Mom I needed 3 more days to feel “ready”.. and that I really wanted to visit the ocean. 

So that Saturday (October 8) my husband Magnus and I drove south from San Francisco towards Half Moon Bay. The first moments of the ocean came into view, (around Noon), I felt my first contraction.. though I wasn’t 100% sure that’s what it was yet:  A light cramping in my belly and some back aches. We had a quiet romantic lunch at an oceanside restaurant.. and at one point I wondered to myself if this could be my last meal before I gave birth. I was 39 weeks and one day along.. I knew it could be any moment, or weeks of waiting, and I let the thought go.

We walked along the ocean at Dune Beach and sat for a while.. and while I was aware of the small surges happening within me.. I was more tuned into the big surges of waves and wind around me. It felt good to be near to something enormous- much bigger than myself & natural, powerful, rhythmic, mysterious, as I prepared for the power of what was ahead.  On the walk back I began to feel tired.. and suddenly it felt like it was too far to walk to get back to the car.  So I leaned a little on Magnus and we practiced a labor essential:  forgetting about the distance ahead, just taking it one step at a time, relaxing and breathing through it.  In fact, labor had begun. We were entering the tunnel.

We took it easy that night and I went to bed early, though I couldn’t sleep much as the cramping and back ache persisted in small, intermittent waves. I still didn’t know how early this early labor was, so I tried to rest as much as possible and wait for things to get strong and regular before calling our midwife Maria. I watched the sun come up on Sunday October 9th awake in a different way. I knew for sure then that I was in labor.  The surges were still short but more regular and we began tracking them periodically.  We called Maria at 8:15am, when the surges were regular enough to be reliable- at that point they were 30-45 seconds long and about 5 minutes apart. Maria told us to keep doing the things we were doing and call her when the surges were consistently a minute long or more and 3-4 minutes apart.  I had the urge to eat something, to shower and to take a walk.. and Maria thought all those things would be good to do.

A shower felt good, especially good knowing that labor had begun and that I would “soon” meet my baby. It was a beautiful sunny San Francisco day and our apartment filled with sunshine as I did pelvic rocks and moved through the surges in different positions, feeling my way through. I felt so positive and connected to my husband and in awe of my baby and my body.  I tuned into earthy soulful music, like Ladysmith Black Mombazo. I wasn’t thinking about time, other than checking in to see how the progress of the surges were coming along. (It really helped to know, because I couldn’t gauge well how long they were.  A surge that felt like 20 seconds could be a minute, and the time between felt shorter than it was). I was glad to have Magnus tracking enough to check in with.. so I could know we were making progress.

Around 3pm, Maria arrived.  By the time she showed up I was within myself and really feeling the power of the surges, breathing deeply through them and making low sounds when I needed to work through. I threw up once before she got there.  She took my blood pressure, which was a little high and asked me, how do you feel?, and while I could tell by her face we were earlier in labor than I had thought we were.. I replied truthfully: “I feel rocked.” Maria checked me and my cervix was no more than 1 cm open, which she helped along to 2 cm.  It was the first of many times that night I could not believe we were not farther along on the path, based on how I felt.  The beach lesson came back to me.. Don’t worry about the distance.. just keep taking the steps. Maria told me to relax my shoulders, relax my face, and let my body do the work. This simple instruction was easier said than done: My mind and body struggled a bit to get in synch at this point, as I tried to find an inner foothold to manage the next level of surges.  My blood pressure was higher than we wanted at this point.. so Maria had me lay down on my side with Magnus beside me to help me relax.  We switched the music to calm meditation (it stayed on that channel for the rest of the birth!) and Maria went to get herbs. While she was gone I took another shower and gathered myself- I came out of the shower calmer and more centered and confident that I could manage whatever was ahead. My blood pressure came down.

The next hours became more intense and harder to remember in sequence. I was living in the moment trying to learn from one surge to the next what would help me manage the powerful forces rushing through my body (physically, mentally) and how to sustain energy between them.  Sometimes it helped to be on hands and knees.. and sometimes it was agony.  Sometimes it helped to have my husband rub my back or speak to me, sometimes I needed total quiet to find my way through. 

Finally Maria said I could get into the birthing tub.  I was encouraged, because I knew that getting into the tub too early in labor can slow it down. That must mean we were making progress.  The tub felt good, and I could move easier and relax better between surges.  I was also able to find positions leaning against Magnus that worked better than out of the tub..and if I needed to adjust mid-surge it was less painful to do so.  I labored for a long time in the tub, it felt like. Maria asked me if I was having the urge to push (from my body, not my mind) during any of my surges..  Once I felt that she would check my dilation.  A while later I thought I was having this “bearing down”/pushing feeling.. It felt like I was getting close to meeting my baby.  I was moaning and om-ing through most surges and feeling pushed to my limits.  However when Maria checked me at around 9pm Magnus and I were both shocked and discouraged to find out I was only 4 centimeters dilated.  I couldn’t believe it.  Especially when Maria then said it could take 1-2 hours for each of the remaining 6 centimeters and to try to stay calm and keep breathing well. Something in me resisted: This baby HAD to come sooner than that...  I could not imagine birthing like this for 6-12 more hours!  Something again had to shift, and in that moment, I asked for guidance.  I said, “I know I can do this but I don’t know HOW I will do this.”   Maria reminded me that I didn’t have to know how to birth my baby out, my body knew how to do it. And she gave me a couple of things to focus on to get out of my own way:  “All you have to do is breathe. Keep breathing your baby down” and “between surges go deep- let go completely and take deep rest- don’t think about anything.”  She also said I could move or make noise however I needed to move through each surge.. which liberated me to tune into my body even deeper and let go of any remaining inhibitions. Two hours later, I felt a definite urge to push.  “Pushing! Pushing!” I said in a low moan. Maria checked my dilation in the tub and was surprised to find me at 10 centimeters! I had gained the remaining 6 centimeters in only 2 hours. Pushing time had arrived and Maria went off to call the second midwife to come help birth our baby.  Somewhere in the distance between huge surges I heard something like “we have a speedy mama here who is ready to birth her baby. I think you should come right away.”

I tried pushing on hands and knees in the tub- I had always intended to birth my son in the water.. But when the time came it didn’t feel right. So I got out of the tub and Maria and Nile, our second midwife, helped me onto the birthing stool. I thought we were moments away from meeting him, and I was ready! However, pushing was more slow, patient, hard work, just like the rest of labor.  I had been present for my 3 younger sisters’ births.. but most conscious for the last two, who seemed to “slip right out” during pushing.  I didn’t realize that a normal first timer can push for about 2 hours. With my husband supporting me from behind and the midwives in front of me, I pushed.  I thought about opening wide.  I thought about breathing my baby down.  I knew I was making progress but it felt slow and my energy didn’t seem to match the enormous task of getting him out.  I wondered again.. HOW can I do this? Again, Maria told me to trust that my body knew what to do.. to just stay focused on my breath and each individual surge/push.  So I went deep inside, closed my eyes, and kept pushing.  We tried this for a while on the birthing stool, then on hands and knees getting onto the bed, then sidelying (which I immediately knew would not work for me) and then finally sitting on the bed with Magnus supporting me from behind. Maria told me to hold my knees up and curl forward as I pushed.  Somehow this was not working well and I was really getting exhausted. So Maria suggested maybe I walk around the apartment and get some energy to try pushing again.  Again- something in me strongly resisted this idea:  I knew we were closer than it seemed. And I wanted to use my energy for pushing, not walking.  So I pressed my feet into the bed and just started to push.. and push.. and push. I heard encouraging words from Maria and Nile in the distance, and felt my husband’s energy and love, but I was someplace deeper, pushing my baby through me.  And then:  I felt his head emerge, pushed and felt his body slip out of me... and felt the joy rushing through my husband as he saw our child for the first time.  I was so shocked in my own body, I felt these sensations first through him. And then there he was.. our beautiful boy was placed on my belly for the first time, and the umbilical cord was cut right away so he could be moved up to my chest.  He cried and my whole body shook and melted at the feeling of him being right there in front of me. I didn’t know HOW I did it really.. All I knew was that I was his mother, that we were finally together after so much waiting, and that the love for him was infinite.

Our little Rhys Henry is such a miracle.. and his birth at home, with my husband by my side at every step, birthed in our bed with no drugs or machines and with deep persistence and love is such a miraculous gift- a strong beginning for a wonderful life together. I am simply in awe...and indeed, rocked.


Rhys was born on Monday October 10, 2011 at 12:59AM at home in San Francisco, CA, 37 hours after the first contraction, and after ~12 hours active labor. He weighed 7lbs 14oz and was 20in. long.