Chapter 1: The Water Breaks ( )
Sunday, November 24, 2013
Written by A, who is the husband of M, who both are the parents of O.
Chapter 1: The Water Breaks ( )
Hospital 4.75 hours, no baby. Home 3.5 Hours, baby. Point for Home.
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 ( )
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.
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)~
Monday, November 18, 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.
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.
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!
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
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.
Saturday, August 3, 2013
On my third shift in the hospital, I worked with an American nurse-midwife named Cathy. I helped with a couple of deliveries as she labor-sat with a 9th timer who was almost complete. It was unusual that she wasn’t just spitting her baby out. Her contractions were short and far apart. We had her up and walking but she became a spectacle in the labor ward. She has gray hair and thus, many people, waiting in the hospital for other loved ones, started staring at her and following her around. They wanted to see how this “gran moun” (old lady) would deliver. We finally gave her a private space in the maternité so that she wouldn’t be the object of such gawking. The labor (or non-labor) was going on for hours.
Finally, it was decided that her labor would be augmented with pitocin. I didn’t think that this was a bad idea, seeing that she was a hemorrhage risk and that the weak labor pattern would make that worse. Within an hour or so of receiving pitocin, she was screaming her baby out. Again, a little unusual. I would have expected a 9th timer to be an old-pro. Anyway, the baby came. But, it didn’t breath. There was meconium staining and the student midwife on staff was slow and clunky with her aspiration of the baby’s nose and mouth. As I saw that the baby was not breathing, I asked for the ambu bag and began the resuscitation. The baby was still unresponsive and apneic (not breathing). Within a minute, we had also begun chest compressions because the baby’s heart rate was low. Cathy did the first shift of chest compressions as I bagged the baby. I began the mantra of neonatal resuscitation. One and two and three and breath and one and two and three and breathe and…… Over and over. The baby, a little boy, was not responding. He most likely had meconium in his lungs and the, ultimately, quick delivery did not allow for enough squeeze to get it all out. Most people believe now that meconium aspiration is the result of an in utero distress. In the U.S., we deal with it often in the NICU and the babies live.
This little guy, though, was not going to have that advantage. We resuscitated him for 30 minutes, which is a long time for that kind of thing. He was finally breathing on his own, but he never took a full cry and he had the rhythmic agonal gasping of one who is desperately trying to receive air. Miss Genette offered that we could try to find a pediatric doctor to help. I thought that was a great idea and so I carried him out of the maternity ward and across the courtyard to the largely, ill-equipped pediatric unit. The baby boy was breathing on his own, but was still limp and unresponsive. Cathy and I would continued ventilating him with the ambu bag which seemed to be offering him more support. Miraculously, the doctor somehow came up with an oxygen machine. So, we put a nasal cannula on the baby and observed.
He definitely seemed to be doing better with the oxygen, but I still felt that this baby needed more care. Could we transfer him to Paul Farmer’s hospital 45 minutes away in Cange? The doctor agreed that this was a good idea and said that he would make the arrangements. I left the hospital about an hour and a half after this birth, having stayed with the baby the whole time. I felt that he was doing a little better. He had a little better muscle tone, but he still hadn’t cried and most of the time, his eyes were closed. He was receiving the oxygen and was now under the care of the pediatrician. I was adamant with them that this baby needed to be watched carefully until he was transferred to Cange. Miss Genette left the hospital 3 hours later and the baby still had not left yet.
The next morning, back at the hospital for another shift in Labor and Delivery, I asked about the baby. Miss Genette did not know, but we finally found another midwife who had the news. The baby had died on route to Cange.
I felt numb. This baby would have lived in the U.S. But this is Haiti, and the hospital does not have a NICU, does not have good suctioning equipment, does not have endless supplies of oxygen. I don’t even know if the baby had medical support on the drive. All I know is that a family member accompanied him.
I saw the mother in the postpartum ward and told her how sorry I was. She was resolute and quiet. I also knew she was about to pick herself up and go on with life. There is no time in Haiti to mourn the loss of a baby when you have 8 other hungry mouths to feed. Death is sorrowful and yet, not unexpected. The town of Hinche has at least 3 or 4 coffin shops where the wood workers display their hand-made boxes along with school benches and tables. We saw a coffin being carried down a dusty, dirt road by a procession of pall-bearers and community members. Out in the middle of nowhere, obviously they were headed to a burial spot. Death. This is Haiti.
|Women waiting for prenatal care at the mobile clinic|
At the orphanage, we have been playing and hugging and getting to know the girls even better than before. We have been staying at their orphanage, which is now separate from the boys. It is nice this way. The girls can maintain their own little world, not having to worry about their safety or the taunting that comes with the sexual tension of teenagers. Of course there are the occasional sibling spats: hitting, crying, hurt feelings. But it doesn’t seem to last long and for the most part, the girls are happy and peaceful. I wonder sometimes about how to give them things in the most appropriate manner. We brought a volleyball net, 12 balls, knee pads, team T-shirts. That all went pretty smoothly. But then I also had my special gifts – earrings, necklaces, shirts, all “extras” from home that I knew would be appreciated by the girls. It is hard to give one girl something. There is a strong need and feel for equity and justice amongst Haitians. But, inevitably, there are the girls who become our favorites. My favorites this year were Joska and Marlande. They are both about 9 or 10 years old. Marlande is confident, beautiful, a strong singer during the evening prayers. She was affectionate and fun with me. When I gave her a special beaded bracelet, she gave me a big hug around my waist. She is easy with her love. Joska is more reserved although when pushed for a photo, she strikes the pose with ease. She is thinner than the other girls and Dina says the house mother told her that she has a medical condition. I do not know what it is. But, I enjoyed her easy smile and feisty spirit.
On the last day, we were cleaning up and I had a leftover baguette. There were a few girls sitting on the porch outside our room, so I offered it to them, saying that they had to share it. As soon as I gave it to them, a near riot ensued. Like a pack of wolves, they pulled and shouted and fought over the bread until a house mother broke in. This is Haiti and although I only heard it mentioned twice, I know the girls are hungry. They eat plain spaghetti in the morning, beans and rice at noon, and cream of wheat at night. Always the same, except for one day a week, when they get a chicken leg.
With the final clean-up, I swept the front porch and scooped the trash into the garbage bag that we had been using all week. One of the girls offered to bring the trash to the garbage area for me. I was happy for the help but also wondered in the back of mind if she was going to go through our trash.
Of the many things that I had brought to Haiti, one of them was a stack of this year’s baby cards. My plan was to cut up all the little faces and create a matching game for the girls. Place all the faces face down, and see if you can find two little baby faces that would match. As it turned out, the weeks were full and I just never got around to it. On the second to last day, I threw away half of the cards, and on the last day, I let go of the rest, realizing that I just wasn’t going to get to it and that it was going to be too hard to explain – cutting out the faces, matching them up, sharing the sets. Everything seems to need a lot of set up and organization around who is going to keep everything together so that pieces don’t get lost, games are kept in order. In the same vein, by the time we left Hinche, we only had 4 out of 12 volleyballs left – some had popped, some were hidden away by the girls for soccer, others I just don’t know.
Later in the morning, I was reminded that this is Haiti. The girls started popping up with the little baby cards in hand. They were fascinated by the photos and the names on the back. It was so funny to hear them pronouncing the American names – “Maxine Danger,” “Emeline.” They even wanted me to put the postcard up on their empty dormitory walls. I obliged, humbled. No matter how many hair ribbons and bubbles and Uno games that we give out, they will always feel a desperation for more. Even though they truly appear happy, I need to remind myself that they lack the foundational elements that a family provides. They have had to re-create their family life with 52 girls and 4 house-mothers. Believe me, it is far better than many. But, they will still fight over bread and pick through the trash.
This is Haiti.
|Twins: Solen and Solange|
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
All is well here in Haiti! The girls are doing volleyball camp every morning. That means they start at 7am at the latest. Some girls are ready at 6! By 8:30am, it is getting too hot to play and everyone takes a morning nap. Tomorrow is our last day in Hinche so they will try to do a small tournament.
Leika is the daughter of Genette's neice. She is my new god daughter. I will try to post a photo of her but Genette and her husband, Louinet, are here now and I must go. Mobile Clinic tomorrow, then off to Port Au Prince on Friday morning. I feel like we have been here for 3 months and yet Friday is coming up so quick. Will post again soon!
Sunday, July 28, 2013
Has a month gone by? So much has happened and my head is swimming with Creole. Was it just yesterday that a woman who gave birth at the hospital asked me to name her baby? She was one of our first timers, 20 years old. Pushing was hard for her and she was definitely not liking it. After helping with a 10th timer and a stillbirth, I was ready to sit her birth out and let Ami have her day. Somehow, however, I found myself in the middle of things. Her name is Sylvan and the student assigned to her was definitely not one of our strongest. When Ami and I come up against a student who needs extra help, we double-team her on a birth. We let the student listen to heart tones, which she definitely needed practice with. I delivered the baby after about an hour and half of pushing. The mother finally smiled after the baby was born. This, in and of itself, is unusual. But, she was happy that her son was born, healthy and strong. I asked her what his name was and she said, “You name him.” I would normally protest in humility, and yet with her, I felt it as a request that honored that we had accomplished the birth together. Jack came to mind, and then, Jack-son. So many boys here are named Benson, Wilson, Gampson, Jameson. I figured she would like Jackson better than Jack. I wrote it on a piece of paper for her so that she wouldn’t forget.
These moments of connection arise as a surprise. I mostly feel somewhat detached in the labor ward; partly because of the stench and mess, partly because of the language, partly because of the overload of sensory stimulation. I might collapse under the weight of any one of these factors. Keeping myself detached helps me to survive the 6 hour shift. And yet, birth has an incredible power to force connection. I can’t help trying to reach deeper into the laboring woman, trying to find a place to see each other eye to eye. Sylvan saw me as someone who took the time to help her in her most desperate travail. She honored this connection by having me name her son. So, he is named Jackson.
Before I left my shift for the day, I threw together all my little sundries in a ziplock: 2 coconut almond bars, a pen, a packet of wipes, an opened travel pack of panty liners. I wanted to give something back to Sylvan, too, to honor her. I wanted to give her anything I had. She has nothing. She smiled when I gave her the gift and in Kreyol, I told her I was happy to meet her.
Yesterday we went to the Matron’s Graduation. You can see Dina’s new YouTube video about the Matron’s here. I was told by Genette that Nadene wanted me to speak at the graduation. Later, I was also told that the students had chosen me as their “Godmother.” This is an honorary title given to someone who will bless them with well wishes as they embark on their new lives. I felt honored and doubtful that it had anything to do with me particularly. I was curious how I had been chosen and I finally found out when we reached the graduation. They had simply said, “How about one of the volunteers?” Since I was already a speaker at the graduation, I was a shoe-in. During the ceremony, I got to sit next to the ex-Mayor of Hinche who was chosen as the Godfather. We were the dignitaries at the event along with a representative from the Ministry of Health.
It was a wonderful graduation, with lots of singing and short skits to represent the work of the matrons. The ceremony was very African in style: drumming, dress and presentation all reminded me of a time when I travelled to Cameroon and saw the officiating at the opening ceremony for a new road.
This graduation of the matrons is significant. This is the second class of traditional birth attendants who have gone through a 20-week course on birthing that includes cleanliness, safety and mostly, danger signs of pregnancy. They take their role very seriously. I couldn’t hold back the tears as they sang and danced their commitment to saving the lives of mothers and babies.
Today we went to Miss Genette’s mother’s house. Genette is the young, clinical director of the Midwives for Haiti program. She was inspired to become a midwife by watching her mother work as a matron. She started helping her mother at births at 17 years old. We visited where Genette grew up, saw her one-room school house and her church. She grew up andeyo, or in the countryside. It is so inspiring to see her humble beginnings and to realize how far she has come.
While we were there, Genette’s niece made me the godmother for her new baby, Leika. I was honored and welcomed into Genette’s family. I am grateful for community and family, here and at home.