Growing up, my only view of “birth” was what I saw on television and in movies. My own mother had three C-sections due to her first baby being breach. Because of this knowledge I definitely thought c-section was the way to go; I thought it was the “easy” way out. I was afraid to think about labor and the experience of labor; it looked awfully dramatic and frenzied in Hollywood.
I had a friend ask me if I had seen the documentary, Business of Being Born. I had not even heard of it. She had not seen the movie yet either, but had heard it was good. This movie completely changed my view of birth. The movie opened my eyes to the hospital experience and the natural process of giving birth. I was nervous about possible interventions the hospital would suggest when I was at my most vulnerable state and what would snowball from there, limiting options for a natural birth.
When my husband and I decided to start a family, we decided to go to a standalone Birth Center for our pregnancy and birthing experience and researched the Morning Star Birth Center.
My at home pregnancy test showed positive on my birthday; what a great gift! My sense of taste and smell changed quickly and I had minimal appetite for food the next 7 months coupled with nausea in the mornings and afternoons, but my sickness was manageable for me. I was thankful I didn’t get as bad as some other mom’s I had talked to. Some weren’t able to leave the house and needed bed rest.
My prenatal care was amazing. We really bonded with our midwives and the experience was very personal. I couldn’t believe the things I learned about my body. I could actually feel the baby before I could see a difference in my body. The midwives did such a great job of including us in on the process. It was so cool to learn how my body did things I didn’t even know about!
We took our education courses through Morning Star also and Rachel Shapiro was our educator. Rachel was amazing! Both Tyler and I clicked with her. In one class we watched women giving birth naturally and we were encouraged to watch other birthing videos on our own time; each birth watched was empowering. I also read two of Ida May Gaskin’s books; super helpful. Tyler read the Birth Partner book, which he agreed reinforced our education. We both realized before our baby arrived that we could not “plan” our birth experience. I only planned to surrender and follow what my body told me. I was “planning” to do whatever was most comfortable. The more we learned about the process the more comfortable and empowered we felt.
My “due date” was October 5th(40 weeks). This day passed as can be expected for a first time Mom. After nearly a week passed the “due date”, October 11th, my husband and I increased our activity level to help possibly start labor. We were officially okay with baby coming at any time, and we no longer had other obligations on our calendars. Our dog, Ally, got a couple long walks that weekend and on Saturday’s walk I could tell the baby was lower, because my belly looked “smaller” or “set back” when I looked down.
On Sunday October 13th, I woke and I had lower abdominal pains, which felt like bowel cramps. I got up and used the bathroom, felt better and went back to bed. Once I got into bed I felt like I needed to go again. I went back and forth for 45 minutes when I finally said to Tyler I think my labor is starting. It just dawned on me the abdominal pains were probably early labor pains. I was delighted they were completely manageable. I decided I should really try to sleep since I had no idea how long the early labor would last. I crawled into bed, but could not get comfortable so I went back to sit on the toilet. I even crawled into the bathtub at one point, but this was stressful for me to get in a comfortable position. I constantly felt like I needed to go to the bathroom. The toilet was so comfortable because there was no pressure on my bottom. The toilet was my “comfort” zone.
Tyler got up at 7AM and checked on me, we decided it was time to call Morning Star to give the Midwife on duty a heads up. Rachel answered the phone and Tyler told her my labor was starting; she then asked to speak to me. We talked for a while and I described my contractions and told her I was uncomfortable in bed, but okay where I was. After chatting for awhile we decide to check in again within an hour or two. Tyler called our doula next; unfortunately she was at another birth, which was in the final stages, so she was optimistic she would make it to us sooner than later. In the meantime, our doula had her backup give us a call. When Tyler talked to our backup doula she asked us to start timing the contractions and then email the data to her after a few contractions. I had my phone, so I downloaded an application to time contractions and started to do so. The contractions were frequent, but not consistent, spaced 30 seconds to two minutes apart and would last 10 sec to 30 seconds.
I was in our only bathroom, so I had to move when my husband wanted use our only toilet. I was so uncomfortable sitting so I crawled out of the way on the floor and just stayed on all fours until I could sit on the toilet again. At this point it was about 9am (3.25hours since awaking) and we checked in with Rachel from Morning Star again. I had given up timing contractions because it was too “stressful” for me and making them worse, so I delegated this to Tyler. I told him when a contraction came I would open my mouth wide and moan like we were taught to do; this way he wouldn’t need to sit in the room with me the whole time. It actually made me feel better to have him in the other room, so I couldn’t tell if he was worried or not. Plus I knew he would be happier if he was “busy”.
At 9:30AM we decided to plan a trip to the birth center to meet at 11AM for a checkup since we felt things were progressing. In my head, I thought if I go to Morningstar for a “check” I would want to stay there and not come back home. Tyler brought my dress into the bathroom since I was still in my pajamas. I just couldn’t get my mind wrapped around how I was going to get the dress on, walk to the car, and ride 3 miles to the Birth Center comfortably without having two or three contractions on the way to the car. Every time I looked at the dress on the floor I would have a contraction. I was not looking forward to the car ride. At this point Tyler and I thought everything was progressing faster than we thought it would….we were mentally prepared for the process to take at least 12 hours. We checked in with our backup doula and she asked me to stick my finger inside my vagina to see if I could feel anything. I could not. She also asked if my water had broken yet; I had no idea. There was no “gush” of water, but it could have been leaking out. She asked if I could feel any bulging and I could; it was not painful but it was a strange sensation. The doula decided to start heading our way.
Knowing the doula was on her way to our house relaxed me, but it was going to be at least an hour before she got here. At 10AM Tyler called Rachel again. He told her I was having trouble figuring out how to get to the car. As he was talking to her I could feel the contractions change. I told Tyler the contractions were low and high now. Rachel asked Tyler if I could talk and I shook my head yes. Rachel asked me to stick my figure inside my vagina to see what I could feel, I could feel something the size of a ping pong ball…I assumed this was the mucus plug since it felt small. In retrospect this was my baby’s head. While on the phone with Rachel I had a few contractions and she listened and provided me moral support. I knew from her education classes I was best off moaning when I felt a contraction. After the contraction was over I would have a wash of hormones come which felt so good. At one point I told Tyler,”It hurts and feels good all in one…it is very strange.”
During one of the contractions I handed the phone back to Tyler. I could overhear Rachel talking to Tyler and she suggested transitioning to a home birth, since I was having trouble getting to the car. I said “good idea” loudly, so Rachel could hear me respond too. At 10:50AM Rachel arrived with her “kit” from the Birth Center. Once I saw her I felt a wash of relaxation. Rachel got situated and joined me in the bathroom sitting across from me on the tub edge; I had a contraction and I remember her warm hands lightly touching the top of my thighs and how good that felt at the moment. I felt completely secure and supported; I had no fears. Renee, Rachel’s Assistant, arrived about this time.
Rachel examined my bottom and though I would start to birth the head soon. Sure enough, next contraction I was crowning. Another contraction and the head was born. I was then asked to stand/squat over the toilet so she could feel for the cord. The cord was wrapped around baby’s neck, so she pulled the cord around and the baby basically fell right out. I couldn’t get my head wrapped around how “easy” that was; it was not as dramatic as TV or movies. At 11:20AM I sat back down and had a blue coned headed baby on my chest and Rachel and Renee got to work. I was not worried one bit; we were expecting him to come out blue and knew he would get color when he started breathing. Fluid was sucked out of his stomach and she showed me what comes out. They continued to poke him until he started to cry. It took a little bit to get a full boar cry going; it was a beautiful sound to hear. He started to pink up and looked really good. I couldn’t believe how coned his head was, how cool! Humans are amazing. At this point I realized we still didn’t know if this baby was a girl or a boy, so I looked to see what we had and confirmed a little boy. I looked to my husband in the doorway and said, “We have a son.”
I continued to hold him as Renee gave me a shot a Pitocin in my thigh. I was getting this shot because my labor was so quick and they want to make sure I didn’t bleed too much. It did not seem like much time had passed when I said I think I need to poop. Of course I was still on the toilet, so it was just fine. I gave a good push and I actually just birthed the placenta. Wow, that was easy too. I had all these ideas of how birth would be and I just shattered all of my expectations. What a great experience.
Immediately After birth
From the bathroom I moved to the bedroom where Rachel and Renee stitched up my tear, which I didn’t even know I had. While I was being repaired I still had my son on my chest and we were comforting each other. I remember commenting on my body odor too; I smelled different now. I am sure some of this was my sense of smell and taste coming back and some was an actual chemical change. Seth knew I was Mom by my smell. Tyler called both his Mom and my parent’s to let them know they had a grandson and that we had a home birth. Our parents were all very impressed with the care we received. When they showed up to meet Seth they were finally convince we made the right decision. I remember hearing my Mom and Mother-and-Law comment on the extent of supplies brought to our house by the midwives. Not what our parents thought a “home” birth would consist of.
Postpartum -The 4th Trimester
Now for the part I was not prepared for…my postpartum period or as Rachel referred to it as my 4th “trimester”. This is the three months after birth. I had 6 weeks of paid leave from work, but was allowed another 6 weeks unpaid leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA.) I was so glad I had decided to take the full 12 weeks of bonding leave; I needed every second of the leave.
The first night we were concerned about how fast Seth’s heart was beating. We were also concern about Seth’s feet, they were still pretty blue, but looked a little better every time we checked. We decided to call Morning Star, it was 10PM, and Rachel answered. She took the time with us on the phone and ultimately decided to swing by our house since she lived close and she could tell Tyler’s concerns were genuine. When Rachel arrived, she also thought his heart rate was high. Then she noticed when Tyler held Seth a certain way his heart beat slowed down to normal. She helped us discover Seth wanted to be swaddled; having just come out of my womb he found the new found freedom of his limbs to be stressful. It meant the world to us Rachel took the time to come by and help us figure this out.
The first two nights were the most difficult for me. I wasn’t concerned for Seth as he seemed okay. I, however, was afraid to fall asleep. When I would start to drift off I felt as though I was falling and would startle awake. My body was tingling everywhere. I felt I was floating; as though I was high and it was scary. I thought the sensation would never end. Every time Seth would make a squeak or noise I felt the sensation of him sucking on every one of my fingers which would “wake” me up…it was so strange. This high was giving me such anxiety. I called Morning Star and Rachel was at the center she had me talk with Rachel. I told her how I was feeling and that I was concerned I would die if I fell asleep. She told me my hormones were normal and the rush of hormones was my milk coming in. The sensation would go away eventually, but to be sure I took my temperature and heart rate. She said I should cry if I feel like crying and I should laugh if I felt like laughing….maybe watch a funny movie. Laughing and crying bring the right hormones to help milk come in and to make the sensations pass. I took this advice very seriously and started to talk about my feelings with the women in my life who have had children. I found out the sensation was not only completely normal, but other women I knew went through the same feelings as I. I heard stories I had never heard before. I cried and laughed with these women and it was incredibly healing.
My doula, Kelly, was very helpful. Since she ended up missing the birth, since Seth came so quickly, she stayed with me the second night to help me out. At my request she brought with her some breast milk from a good friend of hers. I, at this point, was completely overwhelmed as I thought my body was not working. I felt pumping and trying to breastfeed was hopeless. Seth seemed to get a good latch and he seemed to know what he was doing, but I felt he was not getting anything. Even when I pumped I did not seem to get much colostrum out. However, whatever did come out was given right to Seth. When Kelly showed up we gave Seth 1 teaspoon of breast milk and then we got our first really wet diaper. Wow, this was a true moment of relief. I was so thankful for the mother who provided me with her milk. With how difficult it was going, I knew what a gift this was.
My mom showed up day three later to help us out for a week. I never thought I wanted my mom’s help before Seth arrived, but after he was here I did not know how people could get through this phase without help. I was so overwhelmed with hormones and anxiety. My main anxiety was from thinking ahead. How will we ever be able to have a second child? How will I ever be able to go back to work? Will I ever sleep again? I needed to reel back my thinking; I needed to focus on today. Just get through today. Sometimes I had to take it hour by hour. I would sometimes have anxiety thinking about what I was going to eat for lunch and when I was going to take a shower or maybe I should skip both and take a nap.
Day three I received my encapsulated placenta from Kelly. The placenta encapsulation was part of the doula service and so I said, “why not?” I thought the idea of taking my placenta was kind of gross before I gave birth, but after giving birth I would have tried anything to feel “normal” again. I took my first three capsules and the “high” I felt changed finally. I no longer felt a tingling sensation all the way around my body. The tingling started in my finger tips and toes and then came into my entire core. I finally could see an end to that sensation. The next time I took the placenta the sensation went away completely. Then for the first week when I would get the tingling sensation I would take a placenta pill. I took a placenta every day until 6 weeks after birth. Now, I only take a placenta capsule on days when I am crabby or feeling anxious. I will definitely do this with any subsequent births. The fact I am even considering a second child is proof of how the capsules and time have nourished me, with my hormones, to help regulate my feelings.
Breastfeeding is a lot of work, but is something I would do again. I was expecting a dramatic moment when my milk came in. I even talked to my friends about their experiences. Some of my friends had leaking when their milk came in, some felt engorged. I was not leaking; I did not feel engorged. I was obsessed with pumping so I could “see” how much milk I was producing. My friends also had experiences where there child would eat for 10 minutes and fall sleep for 3 hours. They had to pump to relieve the second breast and they would build up a supply in the freezer from their return to work. I had a much different experience.
I would feed Seth and he would latch on for 45 minutes on one breast and still be hungry, so he would latch on the other side for 1 hour. There were days I would breast feed all day nonstop. My nipples were cracked, so I would slather them in nipple cream for relief. Those days were the worst and I would want to give up. Cluster feeding my son all day is not something I loved. I then started talking to my friends about my new frustrations. I had more friends who had the same frustrations and issues I was having than those who had an ideal experience and were stockpiling milk for daycare. Breastfeeding was so frustrating when I was trying to get a stockpile of breast milk. I was also frustrated when Tyler would give Seth the bottle I just put in the fridge. Even though Seth drank the whole bottle, I just felt I could never get ahead. Once I surrendered to the idea, I did not have to stock pile breast milk, I was able to enjoy the experience more. I still get cracked and sore nipples, but I have learned which nipple cream works the best for me, helps sooth the pain and heals me faster. We are still using the occasional bottle of formula when I need a break. I am now okay with this decision because it is not my failure, but what is best for my family. I need to take care of myself as much as I take care of my son. We are lucky Seth likes formula and breast milk without issue. I think the Medela Calma nipple has really helped this transition and we are still using them. The nipple does not drip, so he has to work to get the milk. I long ago abandoned getting anything done on my own. I needed to focus on Seth and me. I no longer worried about emails and voicemails…I will eventually get back “in touch.”
Some of my happiest and most frustrating moments, with Seth, were while I was breastfeeding. Some days seemed so hard and some easy. My short term goal was to breast feed until he was circumcised. Then I made “one week” goals after that. I now have been breast feeding for 3 months and hope to be able to make another 3 months. We are still supplementing with formula on occasion but I feel much better about it. I am happy to see my son growing and knowing I am providing him with vital nutrients. Last week was his first week receiving breast milk 100% of the time, but this week he will receive some formula. This is a big time commitment and it is the hardest job I have ever had, but I would do it again. Maybe next time I will luck out and have the “ideal” experience, but if not I will now be mentally prepared for the commitment.
Morning Star’s Care
My Mom was very leery about our choice of going to Morning Star Birth Center. However, after every visit I would give her an update and she grew more and more impressed with our care and education. The day I gave birth my Mom was so impressed when she walked into our house and saw how prepared our midwives were. But she was truly convinced we made the right decision the first night staying with me, after giving birth. We were changing Seth’s diaper at 2AM and we saw what looked like blood in his diaper. I decided to call Morning Star and Paula answered. I explained what we saw and said how I was nervous he was not getting enough to eat. She assured us this was normal, it was uric acid and not blood, this is not unusual. I called for mental support a few times and even went into the birth center one day when I had concerns. I was assured I was breast feeding well and Seth’s latch was good they even did a weight check with Seth to show me he was gaining weight. My follow up appointments were great as well. Janessa gave me much needed emotional support and even gave me some helpful tips. It was nice to know if I had questions I could always call. My mom is so pleased we received such great aftercare. She kept saying, “You would never be able to call and talk with your doctor.” I agreed with her completely. It was so nice to be able to call and talk with people who knew me and my baby and get the advice to help calm my concerns.
Return to Work
After my 12 weeks of staying home Tyler stayed home the first week I went back to work, which was a tremendous help. It was good bonding for him and Seth too. I couldn’t believe how slow my first day back was. Each day went faster and I developed a routine at work including time to pump twice a day. I now feel like I can “easily” make it to my 6 month goal of breast feeding, maybe even beyond. I am also seeing it possible to add another child to our family in the future. I now have the knowledge I need. I will definitely include a post partum care in the plans for next baby; help with the first two nights would be awesome. I am hoping my Mom will be up for another week stay. After the first week, it was good for me to have time with just me and my husband.
I have learned every woman has a different experience. However, I have also learned every woman will have an emotional response after birth. I am here to advise you to talk about it. You will feel better and maybe pick up some pointers. You are not the first person to have these feelings and you will not be the last. For me the bigger thing was to surrender and give up control. I needed to stop planning and just live for the day. I just took things day by day and stopped planning. It was the hardest thing I ever did and still need to remind myself to “let it go.”