Teacher Training

Birth Story

“I hope these empowering and inspiring birth stories from the women in our community bring you confidence as you approach your birth.” ~Deb

Emily’s Birth Story

Dear Emily,

I heard you before I saw you. It was the most beautiful sound. It told me you were here, and you were healthy. January 26, 2016. 10:26am. 6 pounds 8 ounces. 10 fingers and 10 toes. Happy birthday Emily Rae!

The truth is, it was scary on that operating table in that cold room, under the bright lights with so many doctors around. I felt completely exposed and intensely vulnerable, my arms spread open and my body numb. I had to be strong for you, little one. I knew I had to take care of me so I could take care of you. As you took your first breath, I focused on my breath, and I heard you cry.

Your daddy held you and brought you to me. I saw your face and our cheeks touched. I kissed you. You stopped crying for a moment. I saw you and you saw me.

 

The sensations were intense as the surgery went on. I had to close my eyes and breathe. Four counts in, four counts out. Steady and calm so that the panic that felt so close did not overtake me. Your daddy held you by my head. I listened to your sounds. I heard you.

 

When the surgery was complete, they laid you on my chest. I felt relief. We were okay, and we were together.

I am beyond grateful you are a healthy and happy girl, and I thank God everyday for that. I pray that you are always happy, healthy, safe and thriving, and I feel in my soul immense gratitude that you are here.

 

People often say, “All that matters is that the baby is healthy.” The thing is, it also matters that there’s a healthy mama- in body and in mind. Because you and I are symbiotic. If I weren’t happy, healthy, safe and thriving, then how could you be?

 

When I hold you in my arms, I feel the most intense love I’ve ever felt. I’m amazed that somehow my body housed you and now produces the nutrients you need to grow. When I look at my face, I can see you in it now. When I look at your face, I am in awe. And when you smile? I can’t even describe that in words.

 

I want you to grow up seeing a mom who loves and takes care of herself, and in turn you will love and take care of yourself. I took care of myself in that operating room from the moment you were born, and I promise I will continue to do that. I want you to see a strong mama, so that you know deep within your soul that you are strong too.

 

There’s so much more I want to say. I want to tell you about how amazing your daddy was through it all, and how he took care of us.  I want to explain how your birth was simultaneously frightening and divine, magical and difficult, and how I wouldn’t change a thing because you’re here now. I want to tell you about how I felt the presence of your great grandparents and your great-great grandparents in that operating room; how I believe they were ushering you into this world.

 

We have a whole lifetime for those stories, little one. For now, I want you to know- I heard you before I saw you. It was the most beautiful sound. And I will listen to you and love you always and forever.

Love,

Mama

Birth story via Lifted Into the World

Sophia’s Birth Story

New York City, Friday, September 13th. I was 39 weeks pregnant and having dinner with my brother at Le Pain Quotidien. I still had to go and finish cleaning my old apartment. At exactly 9:00pm as I was saying goodbye—ouch—I felt a strong contraction.

My brother joked, “What, you’re having the baby now?”

I said I just needed to rest and ran out.

Thankfully, the apartment was right next door. I texted my midwife and doula to tell them I was feeling contractions.

The doula  called me back, “Do you think you can sleep through the night?”

“Sure,” I said, thinking that I had just started early labor and that it would take many hours—maybe days—before baby was ready to be born.

“I’ll call you in an hour,” she said.

Then I texted Richard and told him I was having contractions. He leisurely took a 30-min walk to where I was.

The contractions kept coming. I started to measure them using my iPhone’s contraction app (yes, they exist!)

Before I tell you what it showed, let me explain how labor contractions work. Unlike the movies where you hear the woman screaming incessantly for hours, labor contractions don’t go on and on. It’s almost as if nature is tough, but not too tough. Labor contractions feel like super duper strong menstrual cramps, but they only last a minute or less, and there are periods of rest between them. At the start of labor, contractions are usually short, and the length of the resting period is unpredictable and can last minutes, hours or even days. But as the baby is getting ready to be born, the contractions come closer together, last longer, and get progressively stronger. The doctor or midwife tells you: when your contractions are 1 minute long and have consistently happened every 5 minutes for the span of 1 hour, call me.

So, there I was, waiting for Richard to come to me, iPhone in hand. During contractions I’d hit the app button then follow this instinctual need to be on all fours, or sit on the toilet, or lean on a chair. I tried a couple of times to bellydance while standing (pelvic circles and undulations) but it felt too intense.

The app showed contractions to be 30-45 seconds long, but holy cow! They were happening every five minutes steadily.

Richard arrived and, after seeing me and reading the record of the contractions in the app, he knew that the time had come.

We both took a hypnobirthing class over the summer, so he got himself to work. When a contraction happened, he would look into my eyes, and we’d both count and focus on my breathing. Doing this really helped—I’ll even say that the pain was almost gone while we did this.

I couldn’t imagine getting in a cab in such pain, but having my baby at my old place wasn’t an option. My doula called, and I told her how often the contractions were. Well, I didn’t tell her because I was in no mood to talk at that point—Richard told her. She said she’d meet us at our home. Richard called our midwife to ask her to come too.

I kept waiting for a good time to leave for home and somehow it became 10:30 pm. Time just flew, it was surreal. Walking through the lobby I had another contraction and had to sit. The doormen wished me good luck with a smile, which was sweet.

Outside, a cab was waiting for us, but instead of getting in, I walked to the side of the building and took the plastic bag I had with me and threw up. Throwing up is supposed to happen during transition! Why was it happening so early?

We took the 20-min ride to our home in the Upper West Side. Ouch, those potholes hurt during contractions!

I ran up to our apartment while Richard paid. Lola, my dog, greeted me, but I couldn’t focus on her. I went to the bedroom and was finally home, able to moan freely. Richard opened the faucet to fill the bathtub.

During contractions, I tried sitting on my exercise ball and doing cat/cow on the bed. they all helped. I also moaned and said “It hurts a lot!” And somehow, even in that altered state, I kept measuring the contractions (which were now 1-minute long) and asked Richard to walk Lola.

It was 11pm and I was getting very tired. While he went downstairs to walk the dog, I tried an experiment. I wanted to stay lying in bed during contractions. I wanted to sleep through them. But the pain was too strong. Seriously, how could anyone give birth while lying down?

It was at this tired point that I thought “Why am I even caring about measuring this anymore? Everybody’s on their way already.”

Our doula arrived at 11:15pm or so. “Do you want to get in the water?” she asked.

I began to remove my clothes. “Do I take everything off?” I asked, surprised that I felt no inhibitions about her or anyone else seeing me completely naked. Many times, while watching birth videos and photos, I’d sworn not to do that.

The water felt amazing. It’s true that it acts as a natural pain killer! Even in my hazy state, I was worried of it being too hot for my baby, so I kept turning the cold water on between and even during contractions.

Our midwife arrived soon after. She dimmed the lights. It felt so comforting.

At some point I got into a ritual in which I would pull myself up using the faucet, get into a squat and go though the wave of the contraction. I would then relax completely while laying on my side against the tub and fall asleep for a short time. Then the next contraction would come, and once again I would pull the faucet to bring myself up to squatting, moaning, and generally feeling myself walking this new and unknown path with awe and wonder and pain and also fear.

In between contractions I could hear my midwife giving orders and feel Richard massaging me and reminding me to breathe.

Soon, the contractions became even more intense. “This must be transition,” I thought, because there was no way on earth that it could get more intense than that. At that point I heard my moans take a life of their own. They sounded like the moans of an animal! Or maybe the sound of an earthquake… or the most primal and ancient being.

I heard my doula say to somebody, “Oh! I was just going to get you. She just had some mommy groans.”

My midwife responded, “I heard them. That’s why I came in.”

Let me tell you about my midwife. I don’t know how old she is, but she has the beauty of mother nature and the grace of the Rider-Waite Tarot’s Empress. Her voice is soothing but commanding. Her hair is long and wavy and silver, and her eyes are large and serene, and they look at you with compassion and respect and joy and a deep wisdom.

Even though I knew that those “mommy groans” meant that things were progressing, part of me still thought that giving birth would take many more hours. When the next contraction came I groaned even more intensely.

My midwife said, “Can you feel inside and see if the baby’s head is there?”

Even before reaching in, I somehow knew the answer was yes.

“Listen,” said my midwife, “things are going very fast. I want you to let it happen. Don’t fight it.” Her words gave me confidence, and also more energy.

There was another contraction. I saw blood come out of me and mix with the tub’s water. It was the most beautiful sight. Afterwards I said, “I want to go to the bathroom. I don’t want go in here.” And I got up.

“Noo!” they both said, pushing me back down.

“Go here; we’ll clean,” said the doula.

“No way on earth,” I thought.

My midwife checked with her flashlight. “There’s nothing there. It’s all baby.”

The next contraction was even more intense. “It’s too fast!” I said.

But my midwife said, “No! It’s fine.” And that again gave me confidence and peace of mind.

During the next contraction, I felt the “ring of fire.” My baby’s head came out. I don’t remember what was being said but I knew that my midwife had Richard feeling our baby’s head. This time I didn’t lay back on the tub, but remained in the squatting position. It was intense but amazing and beautiful and natural.

The last contraction pushed my baby out. Richard received our baby. She came out very fast and forcefully. Richard tried to bring her out of the water from behind me, but the midwife pushed his hands back down so he’d bring her out of the water in front of me instead.

Little Sophia cried a little and calmed down as soon as she was placed on my chest. I saw her precious little face and it all felt like a dream. The doula put a blanket on her tiny body. Richard was hugging me and our daughter. I don’t know how long we were there—I had no sense of time.

I pushed out the placenta and it felt great to do it. Then the little one pooped all over me, and it made me extremely happy because it meant her body was working properly. While they cleaned me, Richard took the baby. He began to sing to her. Sophia remembered him from all the nights he talked to her while still inside my belly.

The women took me to bed and put Sophia on my belly. It took her a good 20 minutes but she was able to crawl to my breast and have her first meal.

Then the doula brought me chicken soup. It was the most delicious meal ever.

Six-pound Sophia was born at 11:59 pm. The entire labor was exactly 3 hours long. By the time our midwife and doula finished everything, it was after two in the morning. With Sophia on my chest and Richard cuddled next to us, I fell asleep.

Zoey’s Birth Story

The story of this birth begins three years before her conception. This little girl appeared to me in a dream, as a little bundle held and surrounded by a council of female spirits. In the dream I was told, “you are now being prepared for her arrival.” At the time, we were not yet at a place where we would be able to have a baby. Over the course of the following years, she appeared to me in several dreams, at several ages, telling me that she was coming. In one dream, she stated very clearly, “It will be time when both you and daddy are ready.”
Whether it was our being ready or a fortuitous blizzard, 2015 was our – and her – year. I knew – even though I didn’t know officially yet – that I was pregnant with her from the first week. The shifts in my body were subtle, but clear. I also knew the little being I was carrying was the daughter that I’d been preparing for.
Over the course of my pregnancy, I felt a huge sense of responsibility – I was carrying a special soul into the world and I wanted to make her home in my body as strong and as nurturing as possible. My sister in law connected me to The Prenatal Yoga Center, after having taken classes there with her first two kids (she has four!). I checked the website out and immediately knew I wanted to try it. I started going at 16 weeks and became a regular in Deb’s class, and occasionally tried others as well. PYC was such a sanctuary for me – it is where I learned almost everything I needed to know to prepare for my brith – physically, mentally, and even emotionally. Through almost 42 weeks of ups, downs, stressors, life changes, worries, and milestones, the mat in yoga class was where I found peace and connection with my daughter.
Through Deb’s classes, blogs, periscopes and the Childbirth Ed class that we took with Terry Richmond, my husband and I felt educated and prepared. I learned to let go and let what needed to happen, happen. I also learned to ask as many questions as I could – and my OB (Allison Boester/ Weill Cornell East Side) answered everything I threw at her openly and honestly. She was also a wonderful resource and advocate, assuring me that I would have my voice during my birth.
As my due date neared, and passed, we started to talk about induction. I had some fear around Pitocin, given what I had learned about the cascade of interventions, but as the days rolled on, with no progress towards labor or dilation, we agreed to go in for the induction.
On Tuesday night, November 10, my husband and I drove, calmly, in our car to Weill Cornell on the east side and waited to be sorted into our room. I was nervous — I’m not used to having drugs in my body as I rarely even take medicine when I am sick. I was 1cm dilated upon arrival, and at 10pm they administered the Cervadil – which acts overnight to soften and dilate the cervix. The first 12 hours were pretty uneventful. I had to be in bed for 2 hours after it was administered, and then was allowed to walk around. My husband and I watched pretty much the entire 6th season of Parks and Recreation and joked about getting a custom made dining room table. Intermittently, we tried to sleep.
On Wednesday morning, the doctor on rotation came to check my progress – I was 3cm and 80% effaced. At this point, she broke my water, which I was not expecting, but was later reassured by my OB that she would have done the same, perhaps with a little more awareness. They gave me about 2 hours to shower, eat, and walk around before they administered the Pitocin. This was a welcome relief as I had been attached to IVs of saline and penicillin pretty much since my arrival. I recognized this two hour window as welcome freedom.
The nurse that came on shift Wednesday morning had just made the transition from Doula work to nursing, and I was her first birthing mother at this hospital. It was wonderful to have her – she was sharp, honest, and supportive of my birthing goals. Going in, I had wanted to have an unmedicated vaginal birth. The induction made the first part a little tricky, but I told her I did not want to me asked about an epidural, I would request it if I needed it. She made sure to jot it down on a board in the room and in my notes. Indeed, I was not asked about an epidural.
Once they started the Pitocin, I would not be allowed to eat until after delivery, so my husband went out and got me two bagels with scallion cream cheese and so many bottles of different liquids that qualified as “clear”.
When the Pitocin started, things started moving very quickly. My body reacted rapidly and the contractions began in ernest. I tuned into myself, to my tools from yoga and my meditation practice, and really tried to go deeply into each contraction. I saw each one as an opening to a new world, a passage into a new life. During early labor, I turned to mantras – I used “let go”/”I’m okay” breathing and mantras, 3 part breath, and focused on the opening and releasing part of pelvic floor exercises. When I was able to stand and move around, I turned to squats, some standing cat cow and wide squats. Wide, open breath really helped me focus.
As the Pitocin increased, so did the intensity and frequency of the contractions. I turned deeper into visualizations, sounds, and imagining myself holding my baby girl. My favorite two visualizations, which were completely spontaneous: being in a field of opening flowers- sometimes sunflowers, other times poppies, other times random flowers and zooming in and out of particular flowers. The second one, which was really powerful, was seeing the sky open and a ray of light coming down (I think at one point I reached up for it) – I came back to this one while pushing also.
At about 7cm dilated, I threw up, which I was warned might happen. I wasn’t too concerned until I started throwing up at every contraction, and then even in between. I basically couldn’t keep anything down – not even water. Needless to say, I have not been attracted to scallion cream cheese since then. I was not able to turn to my tools because I couldn’t breathe normally. I started to worry that the stress would harm my baby and requested an epidural. My husband, who was my advocate and by my side the whole time, asked me if I was sure, and I told him that yes, this would be our peaceful pathway to the birth. At some point during this phase, my OB came on shift. I was very relieved to see her and to know that she would be delivering my baby.
The administration of the epidural was intense, because I was experiencing contractions intensely and one on top of the other. There was no break between the waves. I remember being hugged tightly by an incredible nurse on staff while it was put in. She helped me breathe and relax.
Once the epidural was in – at around 10:30pm on Wednesday night, everything moved quickly. Baby girl descended quickly and the relaxation in my body allowed me to open. By 12:30am, on Thursday morning, I could feel her very low down and called for an exam. She was at -2 station and they asked me whether I would be open to waiting to see if she could descend naturally. They told me this would prevent me from having to push excessively. At this point, I was just feeling the pressure of the contractions and was not in pain, so I agreed to wait.
At 1:20am, I felt like it was time and called the Dr. in again – they were very surprised to see my little girl basically ready to make her debut. I remember the birth as being intimate, serene, and powerful. It was just my OB, the nurse, my husband, and me. It took just 4 contractions for her to come out – so quickly it even surprised the staff! Everyone was so calm and so encouraging, I felt very supported. She came out singing, and she was immediately placed on my chest. I asked for a delay in her clamping and cleaning. It was amazing to feel her crawl on my chest to find my breast – and clamp down. She has been eating like a champion from minute one. The two images that are frozen in my brain from the birth are the moment she came out and my OB held her up for me to see and when she showed me the placenta. It felt almost other-worldly, like the sky really had opened for this miracle to occur.
Little Zoey was born on Thursday, November 12 at 1:34am.
Div tables are great to layout website sections on the page!

Ariana’s Birth Story

My birthing story begins with my husband… I mean where else can it really begin? When I became pregnant, I was super excited, but feeling a little alone in the process. Many of my friends were on their second or third children and I was pregnant for the first time… So my husband did some research and found The Prenatal Yoga Center. The Prenatal Yoga Center became our go to for everything and we are so happy we found it! I have been a yogi for over 10 years and believed in the strength of my body and being pregnant and having a baby is a natural process. I started taking pre-natal yoga classes and was a regular with Caprice… As I learned more and more, I realized that we wanted a doula- so I naturally asked her. Caprice was already busy at the time of my due date, but she referred me to the Childbirth Class with Terry Richmond! Boy, did I not know what a gift she was giving me!
During the break on the first day of class, my husband and I looked at each other, and both agreed that we wanted Terry there with us when our baby was born. As older first time parents, we recognized how much could go wrong and how little we knew. Many of my friends and relatives ended up having C-sections and inductions when they did not want them (resulting in healthy babies- and really that is what mattered), but I knew that I did not want that to be my story. I had always imagined a vaginal birth and as natural as possible- while in a hospital setting. We loved our OB practice (OBGYN Westside), but wanted someone there with us who was looking after us and helping me through the labor and preparation as well as the delivery. Terry was our gal!
Looking back I cannot imagine the process without Terry and the support from many teachers and women at The Prenatal Yoga Center. So, here is how it went… On my due date (a Tuesday), my husband and I went to see our OB and I was not dilated yet, I was told that we would schedule an induction 10 days past my due date, but could very possibly go into labor naturally before then. Every step of the way (even before my due date) I was talking with Terry about what was happening, how I was feeling, what the doctor saw, etc. So of course I told her this as well. I decided that I would go to yoga that day- of course- since the baby was not coming out… so I, like many other mom’s to be, practiced yoga on my due date. From there, I decided to contact an acupuncturist and schedule a massage- recommendation from a yoga teacher and Terry.
That Friday, my husband and I went to the acupuncturist and it was a relaxing experience for me (it was my first time with acupuncture- but I trust that process in general). That night I went home and all was normal. Then Saturday I got a massage- with a focus on pressure points to help the baby come down and go into labor naturally, I came home that night and felt good. Sunday, I went for a long walk with my husband and parents- as recommended by everyone… walking may help! So, Sunday night, watching the Mets lose the World Series, I started to feel contractions! I told my husband, we got excited, I called Terry, and she said she would come over whenever I wanted, but to try and sleep. So that night, I tried to sleep, between the bed and the couch and the contractions that were 10-15 minutes apart, I rested. The morning came and it continued. I told my husband to continue with his work as need be, and I relaxed and got my nails done (yes, I had to stand up every 10 minutes for the contractions, but it was all good). From there, things progressed on and Monday evening we saw the OB again. I told her where we were, she said I was dilated about 1 cm and the head was down- I asked what to do, and she said it could continue on like this for some time. I asked if she could sweep my membranes (something I had heard could help) and she said yes. She said she would do the same thing if she were I. So she went in and helped the process to further along- I left the office 3-4 cm dilated. My husband was nervous and so was I- we would most likely be parents within the next day or two now!
So that night, we returned home and tried to act normal- and watched a movie. During the movie, the real contractions began. So, we called Terry and made a plan to reach out again when we were ready for her to come over. I wanted to experience labor with my husband alone for a bit and try and sleep if we could. So between10pm and 1am, I breathed and my husband supported me… then Terry came and we called the OB, so they knew a baby was coming soon. Terry was amazing! She helped me verbalize my pain in a more effective way (low groans instead of high pitched cursing), she positioned me so I felt less pain, she massaged me, she breathed with me… and she let my husband sleep for a few hours. As the labor continued, I realized most of the pain was in my back and felt that we were not progressing much- contractions were still about 5 minutes apart. I started talking with Terry about an epidural, told her I was considering it, since I thought it would be a long haul and I felt the pain I wanted to feel… and then I threw up. Now, thanks to Terry, I knew that this may happen- so I had only had chicken soup for dinner… I threw up a lot, with my husband and Terry on my sides, holding a bag (which I missed of course), so I realized that I would need an IV. I decided, when we got the hospital, since I would need an IV, which would confine me to the bed, that I would get an epidural too. While still at home, I showered- while laboring-which felt really good. My husband called the OB, and Terry knew what to say to get me in and straight to a room… and we were off!
My husband ordered an uber (it was around 4:30am) and we went to the hospital. Once we arrived, we got to go straight to a birthing room at Mt. Sinai and shared what we needed… and it was all taken care of. It was so wonderful! Once I started on the epidural, the doctor broke my water, I started on Pitocin and I was all situated, my husband played DJ and put on some great tunes. Whenever there was a tough moment he would share fun memories and stories with me and distract me. All the while, Terry worked with the nurse and doctors to get me positioned better, help get the baby’s head in a better position and by 8 am, we were ready to call our parents and let them know they would be grandparents that day! My husband and I became so excited that we would become parents that day!
I was always concerned that the epidural would not allow me to feel anything, I was happily wrong. I was able to feel pressure when contractions came, but the deep pain I was feeling at home was no longer. We continued down this path, and then I realized I was starting to feel lots of pressure in the front at around 1pm, like my baby girl was almost ready to come out. Terry called the nurse and doctor, the doctor checked- and she said, “She is coming soon!” I was asked to push once, and then told, “Oh, sh*t she is coming now!” We watched our doctor prepare and get all dressed for delivery, and she told me to push, but not too hard (so as not to tear). I pushed- Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” was playing, my husband was holding my head, Terry was on the other side of my head, and 8 minutes later the OB pulled out our healthy little girl who cried – with her umbilical chord loosely around her neck and feet.
We asked that the baby not be cleaned and to keep the umbilical chord attached longer, and we let our baby girl, lay on my chest and find my breast. It was the most amazing thing to see and feel! My husband got teary eyed and I could not stop smiling. I am happy to say we got everything we wished for and more. We felt blessed to have Terry coach us along the way, our great OB, and a wonderful Mt. Sinai nurse- but most of all, we had our healthy baby girl, Ariana Kaia!
Proud parents- Shara and Seth

Jasper’s Birth Story

Jasper’s birth story (born at home on Aug. 19 at 12:40 AM)
After a beautiful day in Central Park with my husband Steven and son Julian (2.5 yrs.) on Sunday (Aug. 17) I started to feel some contractions in the evening. They continued through the night. I called our doula (Gabriela Ammann) and midwife (Valeriana Pasqua-Masback) but didn’t really trust it was labor because they were very manageable and spaced far apart. I was breathing and relaxing through the contractions. They continued through the night like that, not really changing in intensity. I couldn’t sleep, though, because I was excited and the sensations were too distracting.
In the morning I checked in again with Valeriana and Gabriela and both thought it was some kind of pre-labor based on my description. Around 2:30 PM on Monday (Aug 18), Valeriana came over to check on me; we discussed our options since I hadn’t gotten any sleep the night before and things weren’t really intensifying. We were still thinking it was pre-labor. I asked her to check me, although she doesn’t do this routinely. I was already about 6 cm dilated! She said I was in full-on labor and she would be staying! I called Gabriela to come too. My parents who were there, taking care of Julian got the birthing pool set up and prepared my laborade. We made all the preparations and labor continued at a pretty slow pace, still not really intensifying.
At some point I was sent out for a walk outside with Steven to try to get things going more. Things did get heavier during the walk. I would lean on him and sway during the contractions. My parents eventually took Julian to spend the night at their house. I got very emotional about this – it was our first night apart and it felt sad to send him away knowing another child would be born. In the end it was the right decision though, since things continued late into the night
After the walk, things were intensifying a bit. I was sighing and moaning through the contractions, leaning on Steven or Gabriela, sometimes pausing to sit on the birth ball. At some point I was encouraged to get into the birthing pool although I didn’t think I was ready. The water felt amazing, and it was set up in front of our windows facing the river… Steven and I were in there at sunset…. The sky was glowing pink. I was so relaxed that contractions slowed even more. I was telling everyone nothing was happening so I got out eventually to try to move things along. I started walking more around the apartment, squatting or swaying during contractions.
Later I listened to my hypnobirthing tape, but again it made me so relaxed, the contractions weren’t coming any faster. I went for another walk outside – this one barely had an effect. I was getting exhausted and everyone was discussing whether I should try to take a nap, or whether I was dehydrated etc.
Finally around 10 PM Valeriana checked me again, I was somewhere between 8 and 10 cm, and she gave me a big talk about how I could push the baby out in 2 hours if I really wanted to. She also gave me a homeopathic remedy based on my situation. I took her advice seriously and got up and walked into Steven’s office, kicked everyone out except him and started squatting and pushing every time a contraction came on. I did this on the toilet too. Suddenly I felt a lot of pressure – it was the bag of waters. They broke in the toilet and then everything was happening. Steven really wanted us to get back in the tub but the water had cooled off. He and Gabriela started trying to heat it back up but I didn’t think it was a good idea to get back in. Neither did Valeriana. So instead they set me up on the bed on hands and knees. Valeriana was applying compresses with Weleda perineum massage oil and somehow the smell of it (rose geranium oil) made everything more manageable – getting another sense involved instead of just feeling the pressure. I had hoped for gentle quiet breathing down of baby, but it turned out I need to do more active pushing with pretty loud vocalizing. I wasn’t screaming in fear though, the way I did at Julian’s birth when all the doctors and nurses were yelling at me to push. This time I felt totally nurtured. Valeriana was telling me not to be afraid and not to move away from it. Steven was stroking my head and back. The baby’s head came out and I could hear crying already. The body came out and suddenly the baby was placed under me on the bed and I was still on hands and knees above him. He was crying loudly, and I was just in awe, gasping and exclaiming out loud again and again while I looked at him. What a reward for all that work! It was 12:40 AM on Aug. 19.
Eventually I turned over and held him on top of me. The cord remained attached for a long time; everyone left the room and Steven and I just lay with the baby, until I birthed the placenta and Steven cut the cord. He was measured and weighed and he nursed. I was checked and got a few stitches and eventually everyone left. We spent the night with him in bed skin to skin against our chests. It was a beautiful thing to have such an intimate experience – no intervention, just assistance, to birth our baby and to enjoy these first moments and days at home basically in private.

Jeremy James’ Birth Story

My water broke at 8:45 am Tuesday morning. I had just gone to the bathroom, then climbed back into bed to rest a little longer (while I still could!) then felt wet…ran back to bathroom and told Jeremy (my husband) I think my water just broke! I felt a little flustered and tried to think about what to do first…eat (they wouldn’t let me eat once I got into the hospital) change, make sure my bag was ready? Jeremy called the doula while I called the doctor. Jeremy fed me a Valentine’s chocolate he brought me late the night before. I also had a granola bar.
My contractions started fast when I got into triage at 9:15 am-ish. I didn’t leak walking across the street to the hospital, but once I got there I did continue to leak a lot while checking into triage…wet my pants! (It was sporadic.) Finally after going to the triage bathroom three times and seeing the “bloody show”(just a little bit of blood) in their toilet, they got me out of the waiting room and into a bed for evaluation! They confirmed that my water had broken and admitted me.
Once I was in my delivery room, instead of following the call list I had made as planned, I had Jeremy call my Mom and asked her to tell Dad, Robin and Becky (my sisters) for us. Jeremy called her for me on his cell phone, I spoke with her and told her I was in the hospital and that my water broke. Then I had to give the phone back to Jeremy because I had another contraction. He then texted everyone throughout the afternoon to update them.
I requested the epidural at 12:30 pm when I was 2-3 cm’s dilated. (They wouldn’t give it to me until I was in my room.) I went from 2 cm’s to 8 cm’s dilated in 1.5 hours…then to 10 one hour after that. Then I rested/napped during that time. It got painful fast waiting for the epidural but they were quick getting it to me. Love the epi! Glad I had it. Jeremy said they heard me yelling in pain from the hallway when Jeremy went to ask for it. My plan was to wait until 5-6 cm’s so not to slow progression but it didn’t. They only gave me a little pitocin but then turned it off soon after because my body didn’t need it anymore. I started pushing at about 3 pm. I had to have a catheter which is standard hospital procedure for having an epidural.
They gave me a button to control the epidural and said it was not possible to overdose on it.
I breathed slowly, pushing three times with each contraction (counted to ten with each push). Jeremy held my neck and head up with a pillow, and I had my chin to my chest and held my breath with each big push. Jeremy held one leg and the doula (Tanya – Nikita’s back up since I went into labor so early) held the other.
We tried pushing with the bar and a sheet wrapped around it for a little while, in a sort of sitting up position on the bed, but baby didn’t like that…heart rate went down a little, so we stopped soon after.
They used an internal and external monitor on baby. (They added the internal one later on when the baby’s heart rate went down a little.)
They also used oxygen on me when the baby’s heart rate fell a little bit.
I didn’t want Jeremy to look down there when we made the birth plan, but in the room/moment I said he could if he wanted to. He did but didn’t see the head or the baby come out.
Most women do poop and Jeremy said I did early on, but that is normal.
Tanya (doula) could see his head/hair while I was pushing.
I could see everything a little in the reflection of the TV in the room, but only really saw blood.
I had to push with my abs just like they taught in prenatal yoga class.
I was soooo thirsty. I told them I could probably push better if I had some water to drink. J The doula finally gave me a few small sips of apple juice and the doctor “looked away”. Jeremy didn’t want her to (against hospital policy) but she did anyway. Felt better after that. Ice chips just weren’t cutting it anymore!
I got a little tired pushing for almost three hours, but it was okay with the short breaks. I even didn’t push with some big contractions to give myself a rest as the doctor suggested.
They said they’d have to use forceps to guide his head out because I had space for him to come out near the bottom of my pelvis, but he kept going towards the top where my pelvic bones were more of a v shape instead of rounded. Baby was also facing “sunny-side up” so they tried to turn him a little.
When they used the forceps at the end, they put my feet in the stirrups instead of them holding them.
They started to use the forceps at 5:40 pm-ish since he had trouble going the right way under my bones so needed to be guided but wasn’t too bad. There was room but he wasn’t going the right way. I pushed for about 2.75 hours.
When they started with the forceps they also started getting the table ready for the baby, which Jeremy pointed out to me. That was very exciting!
I tore and received three “big” stitches. They did not do an episiotomy as they said it is better to tear naturally than to get one.
Baby Jeremy slipped out fast all at once right when his head came out. So cute. They put him right on my belly like I wanted. So exciting!
I said “Oh my God, he is so cute!” when they put baby on my tummy right after he was born, and Jeremy said “Whoa!” because he came out so fast…head and body all at once!
Baby had a lot of vernix on him which got on my hands and was soft, smooth and white like a good hand cream.
The placenta was hard to get out as well. They said it was attached very well.
The doctor joked that the baby was a girl and Jeremy made a face like he believed her for a second…shocked…very funny.
Jeremy cut the cord, but was unable to take a photo at the same time.
We had four names chosen, but when Jeremy was sitting with him and they were stitching me up, I said I wanted to name him after his daddy.
Baby came a few days before our 2 day weekend intensive childbirth class at the hospital scheduled for 38 weeks (daddy was happy to get out of that), also before our infant CPR class (which we then had to take after he was born) and before our FEU (Fetal Evalution Unit) ultrasound to find out a good estimate on his size using measurements of his head, abdomen and thigh bone.
I loved Dr. Amy Huang (one of Dr. Bradley’s partners). She explained everything we did and held my hand as she spoke to me. She had a wonderful bedside manner.
We kept him with us in the hospital but he was a little jaundiced so for one day they put him under the bilirubin lights. I was in a double room the first night alone with baby, then J and I had private room the second night, and the third night I was discharged but he wasn’t yet so we stayed “hotel” room upstairs in the hospital so I could continue to breastfeed every couple of hours (walking across the street would have been to difficult because of my pain). We had to supplement with Similac formula each time after breastfeeding for about a week to help get rid of the jaundice. (Went back to exclusive breastfeeding only when he was one week old because the pediatrician said we could! Yay!)

He was born at 5:53 pm on Tuesday 2-15-11. Only a 9 hour labor from my water breaking to him being born! Better than I expected for my first baby. He weighed 6 pounds 15 ounces and 20 inches long. He has cute blue eyes that study my face when I talk to him, and dark blonde hair. I love him more than I ever could have imagined.
Looking back, the night before (Valentine’s Day) I finished reading all of my pregnancy books and my book club book, got the car seat and stroller ready for when we would take baby home from the hospital, and put the last few items (snacks, etc) in my hospital bag. And for the previous couple of days I felt very heavy and started walking less and taking more cabs around town. That night I prayed for a quick and easy delivery. Guess baby was giving me hints he was coming early!

Bridget’s Birth Story

Contractions started on Dec. 5th in the evening. Our doula joined us around 12:30. I was in the tub trying to relax. I drank a glass of red wine and shortly thereafter, the contractions began to subside. Our doula left us around 3am and Kieran and I tried to get some rest.
The morning of Dec. 6th I went for a NST with Chris at 11:00 am and was having contractions every 5-6 min lasting about 30 sec. very manageable. 2 cm. dilated and “thin”. Chris said to call her on Friday to check in and set up another NST on Saturday morning. As day goes on, contractions taper off even more to about every 20-30 min.
Finally, Friday evening (Dec. 7th) labor really begins. Our doula joined us at 4am and I was focusing on relaxing—breathing, on my birth ball, etc. Once the contrx. got to every 3 min. we headed to the hospital (around 6:30am) and it was the worst car ride EVER!
8am-6 ½ cm 100% effaced
9:30 am-my water broke
9:50am-7 cm. I got in the tub, but labor slowed to every 4-5 min. Got out and it sped up some.
11:40am-7 ½ cm
1:10pm-not much change. Chris suggests getting some rest with the help of Stadol. While this was not part of my birth plan, I had been in labor since Wed. and I was tired. I did get some rest, but the baby had not turned his head. And there was still no cervical change.
Had to make another tough decision—Chris felt that pitocin would help bring him down and turn him, but an epidural would be necessary because of the intensity of the contractions.
3:30pm-got an epidural and pitocin drip was started.
Little did everyone know, the catheter had not been inserted correctly in my back. After the initial shot wore off (1 hr.) I was receiving no pain relief from the epidural—so, I was feeling ALL of the effects of the pitocin with no pain relief.
5:30pm-got second epidural which worked wonderfully!
7:15pm-9cm!
9pm-pitocin and epidural are turned off and I can start pushing when I get sensation back.
10:56pm-Declan arrives! But there is meconium in his lungs and he needs suctioning. Pediatrics is called in to check him out. Thankfully, all is well and he doesn’t even need to go to the nursery for observation.
I only had a 1st degree tear.

All the best,
Bridget McKenna

Andrea’s Birth Experience

My son’s birth story started on the day I met my husband. Previously, I had no desire to be a mother. I never heard the ticking of a biological clock. I also had a great fear of making the same mistakes my parents did. In my 20s I wasn’t even sure marriage was part of my path. But after many years of working on myself and having chosen the right relationship, I came to the safe space of welcoming motherhood. Our child’s conception happened very easily and the pregnancy was a breeze: I spent 39 years taking excellent care of my body, and my body loved me back. My biggest challenge was healing the fears I had about childbirth. These were fears I either created or absorbed from other people; they involved bad concepts or experiences that I carried with me – some literally stored in my body, creating a story that wasn’t authentic. Shamanic healing sessions and ceremonies, acupuncture, and meditation helped me create the blank canvas on which I was to paint my own experience. I was then able to hear this juicy voice inside me, a voice of peace and wisdom, resonating with clear concepts about birth and childcare that I had no idea I had. And although I previously had so much fear about delivery, now I wanted with all my heart to have a natural, unmedicated birth with midwives!

The next big step was to mature my husband’s participation at the birth and accept that although I wished for the support of my grandmas and sisters, the reality was different. I also needed to accept my husband’s participation in this passage, since his heart was open to share as much of the experience as he possibly could. Together we wrote a beautiful Birth Plan asking, for example, that the baby hear our voices first.

When the birthing center required an ultrasound at 41 weeks and possibly an induction (in case they decided something was wrong), I was concerned. The tricky part of having a natural birth in a hospital is that we are still bound by hospital rules. Even though I knew my son was healthy and 42 weeks was normal, my age and small belly size were outside of “normal averages”, and the hospital could decide that something was unsafe for the baby. I opted for acupuncture treatment to help labor, if it was the time for that. That morning, at 1 AM my water broke while I was sleeping, and almost immediately the contractions started coming 3 minutes apart. They were mild but they didn’t let me go back to sleep, so I tried to distract myself for a few hours. Around 3:30 AM I woke my husband up to give me support, as the pain had intensified.
One of those “will be funny later” parts was that my doula passed out on her couch without her phone, and wasn’t available until 6 AM. But when she came she was ready and with her skilled hands she grabbed the sides of my hips, pulling them back and creating space in the front, which substantially eased the pain. I acknowledged it with a loud “ah… this feels good!”! By 7 AM we left for the hospital and at that point the contractions were strong but I still could occasionally smile and make a few jokes. I had no idea that the birth was so near. I arrived at the hospital’s birthing center 5 centimeter dilated with the baby’s head at a low position, leading the midwife to suspect that I would deliver in just 3 hours.

It was such a victory to be admitted by the Birthing Center. Due to the limited equipment, the hospital imposes several restrictions on deliveries: length of pregnancy, mother’s age, meconium in the water, etc. It’s a shame I was too distracted by the pain to fully appreciate the extra large room with the queen-size bed and the Jacuzzi (although I did use the Jacuzzi during labor and really enjoyed it). With the help of my doula and midwife, along with the nurse occasionally verifying a heartbeat, I spent the next 3 hours working on a full dilation. The tricky part was that I hadn’t had any sleep and my body was so tired that I started dozing off in between contractions. After hours of trying different positions and breathing techniques, the midwife decided that I had to save my energy for the delivery, and a reclining position would be the best for me. That really disappointed me. After all the preparation I had done, all the reading and research, I trusted that gravity would help and that squatting would have great benefits for opening the hips. Reclining on my back was not my wish, but it reminded me that birth is about preparation but also acceptance. Later I understood that it was the first strike: I felt that something I truly believed wasn’t available to me.

But my exhaustion grew to the point that I was sleeping deeply and snoring in between contractions. My energy level was extremely low, despite all the juice I had been given. As my body slowed down the contractions, the effort of pushing my son out into the world became greater. With every contraction the doula and midwife encouraged to me to push harder, but I had no urge to push. And that was the second strike: I had practiced J breathing and I believed that pushing was unnecessary. I intuitively knew that it would be possible to allow the body’s expelling movements to work by themselves. But that also wasn’t available to me, and for the next 2 hours I made a valiant effort to hold my legs open in the air, lift my head, hold my breath, and bore down. Again, that was not the experience I had wished for, and I felt more drained every time the midwife would massage my perineum in a painful and uncomfortable maneuver. I appreciated the benefit it could bring, but that pain was the second worse sensation of the whole birth, and regardless I still had first degree tearing.

The third strike came when my heart realized that I was not physically surrounded by the circle of loving women to which I belong, the sisterhood of wise women who support me. I instead had a nurse with whom I wasn’t comfortable, an unfamiliar midwife who had replaced mine at the last minute, my wonderful doula, and my sweet and fantastic husband who I forbade to look anywhere else but at my face. I felt medically supported but emotionally unfulfilled. I was too tired to remember that my spiritual family would always be by my side.

The fourth and last strike happened when I stopped believing I could do it. I had read about this phenomenon in multiple birth experiences and I knew it could happen to me. Suddenly all the words of encouragement sounded untrue, and I felt I was incapable of the task. I never said one word, but my doula read in my eyes the sign that I was about to give up. Pain, exhaustion, shame, abandonment, and disappointment all crushed me. I was vulnerable and raw. That was the moment I received Divine help, the something else I was waiting for to help me and my son. It was still my body, but now with Divine Love showering me with the strength to bring my baby into this word! After 12 hours of labor my healthy, 6 lb 13 oz son was born. It was the miracle of the birth beyond the physical delivery. My beautiful Starseed was placed immediately on my chest and soon sucking on my breasts.

My adventure hadn’t finished because the closing was traumatic. On the Birth Plan I had requested the umbilical cord to be kept uncut until the placenta had been delivered. We waited more than 30 minutes for my body to expel it while I received stitches, but finally they performed a procedure called controlled cord traction (CCT), which involves pulling on the umbilical cord to help deliver the placenta. With the placenta came a gush of about one liter of blood. The scary hemorrhage continued for several minutes, and the midwife and nurse frantically massaged my belly and administered an injection of pitocin. I felt fear travel down my spine as the nurse transferred our son to my husband’s arms, leaving me feeling empty and alone. Although things got under control quickly, the idea that something could happen to me and I wouldn’t be there to protect and nurture him almost devastated me. That was my first motherhood experience, my first instinct that his well-being was more important than mine!
My heart had opened wide and welcomed that old soul in a new body to his permanent residence. And soon the bad memories would vanish, leaving me with the sweet taste of unconditional love.

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