Sunday, October 26, 2008
Positive Birth Story... at Home!
Positive Birth Story... at Home!
We've all heard (or experienced) our share of negative birth stories. The c-section rate is astronomical (33%), and tales of marathon labors, multiple medical interventions, and tragic outcomes overwhelm and frighten us. But positive birth experiences ARE possible, and if your pregnancy is low-risk, a positive experience is more likely with a trained midwife and/or doula at your side.
Here is the positive birth story of my daughter, Sequoia, born five years ago:
The morning of my son Ben's 10th birthday, I sat on the edge of his bed, reminiscing with him about his birth, and discussing our plans to celebrate his birthday that evening. Meanwhile, I could feel mild contractions, which felt like uterine deja-vu. I didn't think much of it at the time. I was six days past my due-date, and had been having mild contractions (false alarms) on and off for about three weeks, to no avail. Ben went off to school, and I took a nap.
The mild contractions resumed in the mid-afternoon, so I called our lay midwife, Lara, to come over. We were planning a home birth, and at this point, she was making house calls. She said I was 3-1/2 centimeters dilated, but not yet in active labor. She gave me a brief cervical massage, to try to gently help things along. Like most women who have carried past their due date, I was quite ready to "get this over with"!
At 4:00 p.m., while my partner, Rob, was picking up Ben from school, I felt a warm gush of fluid. My water broke! Now we were getting somewhere. Rob came home and sat with me in our living room as my contractions intensified. All the yoga and breathing techniques I'd been practicing were VERY helpful! I was able to stay focused and relaxed as the sensations got stronger.
Lara returned, and my friend Phoebe, a doula and massage therapist, arrived. Phoebe was supposed to me at my side, but surprisingly, Rob was able to be all the support I needed. That was great news, so Phoebe could take Ben out for his birthday for some pizza and ice cream, while Rob and I focused on birthing our baby.
We moved upstairs to the comfort of our bedroom. The midwife laid absorbent pads all over the floor and bed, so I could move around freely, and then she left us to labor in peace. I mostly leaned on Rob, standing and swaying my hips, as he leaned against the support of the wall. All the daily walks and yoga practice had strengthened my legs, so I was able to stand for the next few hours and allow gravity to encourage labor to progress.
I focused on breathing slowly, grounding with the support of my partner, and relaxing into the contractions. Often I would moan, in low, steady tones. In the background, a subliminal relaxation tape played softly in a continuous loop. Labor felt like a long, intense meditation.
By around 8:30 p.m., however, I had "hit a wall." The contractions had gotten so strong I was no longer able to stay calm, and I was instead literally rolling around on the floor in anguish. I kept saying, "I don't know, I don't know if I can do this." I was in the transition phase of labor. Lara gave me some motherwort tincture in a little water. Within a short time, I had calmed down, and she went back downstairs.
Suddenly, it felt like my whole body opened up, and I could feel the baby moving down the birth canal. The baby was coming out! The intensity of feeling the baby's head crowning stunned me speechless. Meanwhile, as through most of the labor, only Rob and I were in the room, but it was time for the midwife, pronto! I shouted the only word that came to mind: "Burning!" Well, that got everyone running up the stairs.
I wanted to stand, so Rob held me under one arm, and Lara's assistant held me under the other arm. Ben and Phoebe watched from behind, as Lara supported my perineum to try to avoid tearing. Since I had torn in the front at my first birth (the nurse-midwives at the birth center had refused to let me squat, and insisted I lean back), I supported my own labia with my hand as the baby's head crowned.
In just a few pushes (with lots of low, open sounds from the big cavewoman I had suddenly become), the baby's head was out! From behind, I heard a stunned Ben exclaim, "it's a head!" (I don't think he was REALLY sure there was a baby in there until that moment!)
The baby was in an awkward position, with her right hand tucked under her left cheek. Lara skillfully maneuvered the baby's protruding right elbow out, and I did not tear. At 9:38 p.m., on my son's 10th birthday, our baby was born, on our bed, in our home.
As I held the baby for the first time, Ben asked the inevitable question, "is it a boy or a girl?" It hadn't even occurred to me to check, but then I did -- "it's a girl!" "Welcome to the world, little girl," I told her, and then nursed her for the first time, as our family cuddled in our bed. We named her Sequoia. Then I had a shower while they changed the bed-sheets and cleaned, weighed, and measured little Sequoia -- 6 lbs., 15 oz. Two children born exactly ten years apart to the day -- life is so interesting!
By 11:00 p.m., our visitors were gone, Ben was tucked in, and Rob, Sequoia, and I were snuggled in the same bed in which our baby had just been born. How wonderful to be able to give birth naturally at home! What a miracle! I believe Sequoia's positive home birth gave our family a wonderful bonding experience and healthy start.
I wish the blessings of natural childbirth for more women and babies everywhere...