My friend, Maysa, and fellow Yoga teacher shares her inspiring birth story with me. A little background, Maysa is a doctor and also just completed her prenatal yoga teacher training, the Khalsa Way, through Gurmukh. I also went through that training, based on Kundalini Yoga, many years ago. Thus you will hear Maysa describe some aspects of birth with medical terms and also with a very spiritual lens. Grab your latte' or tea and sit back. Here it goes!
<Story and photos posted with Maysa's permission. >
Maysa’s Home Waterbirth Story – Baby Girl, Jasmine, weighed 7lbs. 11 oz. Jasmine was born on November 15, 2020, a little after the sunrise.
"How do you begin to describe the ineffable, most defining moment of your life, the most powerful natural high of labor and motherhood? It feels as though it happened yesterday but I've been slow to put words to this beautiful experience, knowing they could never do true justice.
Our state's window for a midwife-assisted home birth (42 weeks) was fast approaching. We had been coaxing Jasmine to join us earth-side for a few days, when like clockwork, at midnight November 15th she began her exit/entrance exactly as we had rehearsed... right into full-on, in-your-face active labor. My entire pregnancy, since her conception, we have had a dialogue. Her birth was no exception. She delivered perfectly on her big debut, our first dance. I had rehearsed with her the motions she would go through. "Head down, chin tucked, corkscrew, crown and out!" I made my request for a "quick" home birth in the birth pool.
When the time came it was game on. We worked each contraction, making the most of each intense moment and like Savasana between postures in a Bikram hot yoga class, found stillness and surrender between the rapid fire waves of sensation. My partner prepared the pool as my doula applied counter pressure and third eye rubs to help me relax. "Allow the contraction do its work," she said. "Allow the pressure to become part of you." In the bathroom I willingly did some toilet laboring knowing this, though extra uncomfortable, would speed the labor. Cat/cow in the warmth of the bathtub sent waves of shivers from pure endorphins through my body. I took the cue to shake and shimmy, putting my prenatal belly dancing to use. Eventually the porcelain tub became painful on the knees and it was time to move to the birth pool in the library. Jeffrey supported my walk there.
Finally fully submerged in warm water and soft surfaces I felt more comfortable. My midwife arrived shortly after. I examined myself thinking I was complete and found myself with an anterior cervical lip and zero station. "OOOOOPEN," I told my cervix. With each contraction, using sound, my mind and pressure from my fingers to help her relax open.
So I'm on my back in the birth pool, my fingers on the 12 o'clock position of my anterior cervical lip, the last bit of cervix that remains before I can push. I'm applying cervical acupressure through the contractions to speed dilation. It's making it more painful in the short term, the most powerful of my contractions thus far. Having delivered my fair share of babies during residency, I was no newb to the wiles of the anterior lip, often the last, most resistant bit of cervix. What was unique was being the one to diagnose it and the only person to examine my cervix during my entire labor. So there I am praying to the "Lord," all kind and benevolent sentient beings, Angels, my spirit guides, all women across all time, my ancestors and my cervix, for help. "Oh Lord, help me Lord" kept escaping from my lips. I am asking Jasmine and myself to remember all the past lives that we've been born and birthed. I'm calling on that knowing to help me deliver here and now. At some point I looked at my partner Jeffrey and I say, point blank "Get in the tub." I know exactly what I need in every moment. We held eyes for a contraction. He later described it as very, very intense. Holding eyes for that contraction was as though we had held eyes for a thousand of them, present, past and future. Like any psychedelic trip, time has very little meaning here, but at some point I sensed it was the hour of my morning Sadhana: me and baby's daily morning practice. Starting at 5am for the last few months I had been doing this sequence of meditations, movements, and chanted prayers. We started with Japji, the prayer that guru Singh of the Sikh tradition sang upon waking from a meditative state in a river. He was thought to be dead. After 3 days he awoke singing this prayer. The soundtrack continued...Triple Mantra, Adi Shakti, Ek Ong Kar Sat Guru Prasad, Puta Mata Ki Assis, Kirtan Kriya, and finally Long Time Sun. Unbelievable to all I began singing these mantras in labor. They summed up all my prayers baby: for her protection and health, for her ultimate liberation, and for the miracle of birth to occur. So I left my body and sang...
Between squatting contractions, I would collapse backward into Jeffrey's arms and take respite in a brief Savasana. I would quickly feel another begin to build, grabbed my Rebozo, which was hanging from a thick bamboo shaft propped between two speaker stands, and Jeffrey would give me a shove up into squat. In this final hour my body entered these alternate states of consciousness to do the sheer work of pushing. Baby girl would come down with each push, then slide back up, slowly stretching the birth canal. That went on for some time. Jeffrey told me there were lots of contractions I swore were then last one. "She's coming on this one, here she comes!" I am an optimist, even in labor it seems. I stood up, waist just above the water, and suddenly a gush of water. “My water bag broke!” I had imagined Jasmine being born with a bag around her but she had other plans.
Then everything sped up even more and the time between contractions was no longer pain free. The pressure was now persistent during what used to be my interval of rest! "She's in the pelvis and trying to go under your pubic bone." This was like the video my midwife Sally sent me, though I never watched, showing a woman's pelvis and tailbone change shape during labor. I could feel it all. "The pressure is persisting in my back between contractions!" In that moment and with every final push I understood why a woman might accept and epidural or have only one child. No judgement reigned supreme. I applied perennial pressure and urethral pressure praying my parts would stay intact. I felt like I was tearing in two from the inside out. "Accept the pressure as part of you, allow the contraction to do its work" I heard my doula Melanie say as I breathed into the contraction, visualizing my entire pelvis expanding open. I exhaled release. The uterine squeeze is the strongest muscular contraction of the human body and I was feeling it in full effect. On my back in happy baby there came a moment, gripping my hamstrings tucking my chin, when I knew the end was near. "RING OF FIIIIIRE!!!" I yelled. Her beautiful round head, in it's full, glorious circumference was making it's final exit from my bodily orifice. At this point the fire, or "burn," is real. Now between contractions she did not slide back up the canal. Her head sat there, stretching me open.
"RING OOOF FIIIIIIRE!" and then out of me darts a scream so high and shrill, my vocal cords remember it for days. "Can you bring the sound down into your pelvis? How about some horse lips?" Sally gently reminds me. I let out some more earthy groans, moans and roars, as the lioness regains composure. I begin blowing air between my lips like a blubbering horse (or, blowing raspberries), to slow things down...I feel her near. I brace my bits for the next contraction and with it, blurring the lines between labor and sex, I yell a resounding "She's COOOOOOMIIIIIIIING!" And with that almighty push her head overcomes my final orifice and I feel...instant relief! "Feel her head" says Sally. I am calm and relaxed. Pain and pressure free, I feel her head floating outside of me in the pool. "Sooo much hair!" I exclaim. My voice is of pure, airy wonder like I'm tripping on mushrooms for the first time. I'm laughing and joyfully delirious. I expected I would be bleary eyed, crying with joy and happiness like I am now, recounting this magic, but that moment the feeling is confident, calm, composed. We rejoice. I feel like the hardest part is over. I inhale and exhale relief. I expand into this long, well deserved break. The final contraction begins to build. "Now it's time to get her shoulders out." I know what I have to do. At the peak of the next contraction, I push my hardest and press my feet against the tub. My knees buckle inward and out she shoots into the pool! My midwife holds her below the surface for us to take everything in. For the first time we see her, still in her habitat of the last 10 months...she is a tranquil marine mammal. We stare at her beautiful, face studying us from under water. Her eyes are WIDE open. She is completely still and is the most peaceful, pure creature I have ever beheld. We give her a few more moments in aqueous home before pulling her to surface. She is quiet & calm in her new atmosphere. Breathing in silent contemplation we behold one another. Finally meeting after 10 moon cycles of bonding on the inside and just under 7 hours of labor, I bring her to my chest, earth-side, and hold my new born daughter. My life is forever changed. And like that, I am Mother."
Sally Acosta, Midwife https://www.letitbemidwifery.com
Melanie Schatz, Birth Doula https://www.nolanesting.com
Photo credits belongs to different members of the birth team whom were present.
See video on how to do 'horse lips' or blowing raspberries, as Ina May Gaskin calls it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97ikBlo95IY
The Cesarean rate in the United States was last report at 32% according to the last report (2017) from the Centers for Disease Control and prevention (CDC). The new report is not out yet and I hope the rate might have dropped a bit as more and more women are getting educated about their choices with childbirth. We see more women are hiring birth doulas; attending yoga classes; attending childbirth prep classes; and in general taking a bit more control over their choices.
I am delighted by ACOG's latest Practice Bulletin 205, published February 2019. This report modifies the treatment of women with prior Cesareans and offers VBAC and TOLACS are possible routes for delivery.
ACOG's overview statement says, "It was once thought that if a woman had one cesarean delivery, all future babies should be born that way. Today, we know that many women can undergo a trial of labor after a cesarean delivery (TOLAC), and many will be able to give birth through the vagina—called a vaginal birth after cesarean delivery (VBAC). It is important to understand the risks and benefits when deciding to attempt a VBAC. Ob-gyns, physicians whose primary responsibility is women’s health, are best suited to help a woman determine if a VBAC is the right choice for her."
I strongly believe that the support of VBACs and TOLACs can further reduce the Cesarean rate in America and also increase a new mom's overall satisfaction with her birth experience.
Angie's TOLAC Birth Story
Hi my fellow Yoga Mammas!
On August 22nd I went into Torrance Memorial at 41 weeks and 6 days overdue for a ‘light’ induction, since I had a prior cesarean. I was trying for a TOLAC (Trial of Labor After Cesarean) hopefully ending in a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean). Upon arriving at the hospital, I was 1cm dilated and 60% effaced. I was not opened enough to try the Foley bulb yet. After being on small increases of Pitocin from 7 a.m. Thursday morning until about 1:00 a.m. Friday, the following day, I was still the same dilation as when I began. They then tried a foley balloon which would hopefully help jumpstart dilation. After the 4th attempt they said it wasn’t going in. After 24 hours after my induction began, my choices were to begin Pitocin again or to schedule a Cesarean for later that Friday afternoon.
After talking about it with my husband we decided that a scheduled Cesarean would be the best decision for me. I had a strong feeling that another day on Pitocin with contractions wouldn’t make me dilate any faster. It felt empowering to be a part of the decision making process and my doctor was great about supporting me through my journey. I was able to experience a calm and peaceful labor. It felt powerful to have the choice to go through the TOLAC!
On Friday, August 23, 2019 at 4:35 p.m., I delivered my son Keanu Daniel Crist! He was a healthy baby boy! Keanu weighed 8 pounds, not too big for being nearly 14 days past his due date! The Doctor told me that since Keanu had the cord wrapped around his neck 3x, he most likely would not have descended into the birth canal naturally and most likely would’ve ended in an emergency Cesarean anyway, had I kept trying the Pitocin induction. While I I did eventually have a another Cesarean, the following day, I wouldn’t have changed anything about preparing and trying to wait until my body went into labor on its own for the birth of my 2nd son. I had the chance to labor for over 24 hours, all-natural and I did everything in my power to try to deliver him vaginally. And sometimes you just have to let go and embrace the path that’s unfolding for you in order to get the best end result, which in my case was a happy, healthy baby boy! Good luck everyone on your birthing journeys!!
Ps. The day after delivery one of the nurses asked me if I was exercising during my pregnancy because she said my stomach was very firm while she was pressing to check my uterus. So, all of the dancing and poses in Yoga class didn’t go unrecognized! Thanks, Patricia :)
~ Photos and story posted with permission.
You can have a beautiful and peaceful Cesarean birth. Many times a Cesarean Birth is unexpected. Or, maybe your baby is breech and thus the only option is to give birth by Cesarean. And maybe there are other non-medical reasons for the choice for a surgical birth. Mothers may have feelings or regret and sadness as they mourn the loss of their "birth plan." No matter the delivery, a woman should be cared for as though she is experiencing a sacred and beautiful event...the birth of her baby.
In my experience as a birth doula, many doctors allow the birth partner and doula to join the delivery in the operating room. That final decision is made by the Anesthesiologist who runs the OR. If the doula and partner are allowed in to the operating room, they will need to sit down, at the head of the bed i order to avoid the risk of tampering and disrupting the surgery. Often hospitals allow mothers to bring in their own music; have certain birth preferences honored such as double-layer suturing and vaginal seeding. Also, the mother can request to have her placenta saved if she is planning to have it dehydrated for placenta capsules.
Here is a sample paragraph that can be used on the Birth Plan regarding preferences for the Cesarean and also for the placenta. Note that if a mother wishes to take her placenta home, she may be required to sign a waiver.
Sample Language for Birth Plans
3rd STAGE OF LABOR - Placenta Herbal Medicine
Not only will having your birth doula with you during your Cesarean birth calm your nerves, she can also be of support to your birth partner and remind him/her of the birth preferences for Baby care. Your doula can further be beneficial by giving you aromatherapy cotton swab to reduce the operating smell in the operating room which is an unpleasant smell and can be alarming to the mother and her birth partner. Having a doula by your side will help bring you peace of mind.
I notice that these very simple adjustments to the birth scene actually make a big difference. For example, extraneous chatter is kept to a minimum. I once was in a C-section where the doctors were debating which McDonald's was better. I shook my head and thought to myself, "Hello? A baby is being born!" This type of occurrence is minimized when the room is altered by things like soft music and the scent of lavender essential oil. These are minor additions and do not interfere with the medical procedure of a Cesarean birth.
A mother can also request to have her baby given to her as soon as possible so that she can begin bonding with her baby is the postpartum room. Your doula can also assist the new mother with breastfeeding techniques.
Your doula can also take beautiful photos of the new family. I took this the photograph above. That initial state of bliss between baby and his mother is undeniable.
No matter how your baby comes into this world, it is still a sacred and beautiful occasion!
#birth #pregnancy #doula #aromatherapy #vbac #newbornbaby #birthphotography #placentapills
Check out my short video on The Abundant Parent Podcast with Leah Recor! For #Women, especially #moms, how to shift from Masculine Energy into Feminine Energy in a #conscious and healthy way.
#alisonarmstrong #johnwineland #brenebrown #DrPatAllen
Join me in this special and sweet 2-hour Couple's yoga class where we will do partner stretching; learn breathing to manage contractions in labor; and movements to encourage a pain-free childbirth!
Please bring one exercise ball that is about 65-72 cm already inflated.
This workshop is so much fun!
Sign up through YogaWorks South Bay studio: https://www.yogaworks.com/workshop/couples-pregnancy-yoga-for-birth-051819/
There are so many benefits for saving the baby's cord and encapsulating the placenta by making placenta pills. Check out the information on Evidence Based Birth https://evidencebasedbirth.com/evidence-on-placenta-encapsulation/.
Also download Dr. Shawn Tassone's presentation, The Two Way Umbilical Crd on LinkedIn. Slides describing the maternal-fetal bonding process prior to #birth that shows mothers when the fetus develops senses in utero. https://www.slideshare.net/ShawnTassoneMD/two-way-umbilical-cord
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recently published Committee Opinion Number 736, released May 2018, which recommends Optimizing Postpartum Care. We birth workers and pre/post-natal yoga teachers have been talking about this “fourth trimester” and the importance of postpartum care for new mothers well after the birth of her baby and well beyond the typical 6-week postpartum check-up. “This Committee Opinion has been revised to reinforce the importance of the “fourth trimester” and to process a new paradigm for postpartum care.”
In ACOG’s No. 736 Abstract (replaces No. 666, June 2016), the following published statements are especially exciting to me: “To optimize the health of women and infants, postpartum care should become an ongoing process, rather than a single encounter, with services and support tailored to each woman’s individual needs.”
ACOG also discusses financial responsibility which may make Insurance companies’ eyebrows furrow, “Changes in the scope of postpartum care should be facilitated by reimbursement policies that support postpartum care as an ongoing process, rather than an isolated visit.”
Here is where I start doing cart-wheels, “…the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that the timing of the comprehensive postpartum visit be individualized and woman centered. To better meet the needs of women in the postpartum period, care would ideally include an initial assessment, either in person or by phone, within the first 3 weeks postpartum to address acute postpartum issues. This initial assessment should be followed up with ongoing care as needed, concluding with a comprehensive well-woman visit no later than 12 weeks after birth. Insurance coverage policies should be aligned to support this tailored approach to the “fourth trimester” care (see Policy and Postpartum Care).”
Whoah. I still do the ‘Happy Dance’ after I read that! Out of curiosity, has ACOG hired more women? I am happy to see ACOG finally coming on-board with a formal Committee opinion in an effort to change postpartum medical practice as well as affect policy changes for financial reimbursement. I haven’t been this excited over an ACOG opinion since they revised their decision about VBAC births! Although change make take time before we see it materialize into practice, this recognition of the Fourth Trimester is a step in the right direction!
(Replaces Committee Opinion Number 666, June 2016)
Bringing a child into this world can be one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever have as a woman. The idea of birthing a new soul and bringing life to our community is something most women have dreamt of since they were little girls.
However, having a child can also be very overwhelming with all of the tasks and things on your to-do list that must be done. Unless you have had a couple of children already and are a seasoned pro at this, you are going to have a lot of work on your plate that can feel a bit stressful (especially if you still have to work a full time job).
This is where having a life coach can come in handy.
While many people may assume or associate life coaching as someone who helps you “fix your life”, this is not fully accurate. While the coaching industry has made its name with helping people get their lives back on track, the truth is that a life coach uses certain techniques and skills to help their clients accomplish their goals regardless of their circumstances. Even the most successful executives, athletes, and Hollywood elite use coaches to support them.
Some of the main methods a coach uses are:
1. Active Listening & Empathy
This is where the coach is able to connect with their client on a deeper level to truly understand what it is they want to accomplish so they can help them find clarity and get unstuck.
2. Setting Goals
Once the coach has helped you get clear on what it is you want to accomplish, they will then be able to assist you in identifying and prioritizing your goals.
After you have made a list of what your goals are, a life coach will help you break them down into bitesize steps so that they do not overwhelm you so that they are more manageable on a daily and weekly basis.
4. Support & Encouragement
As you begin to tackle your goals on your road to success, there will be lots of twists and turns that come up that could potentially throw you off your game. It is now when your coach can provide support and encouragement so you can face your fears and overcome adversities.
So to summarize, a life coach is someone who understands what you want to accomplish and supports you along that journey making the process easier and more enjoyable.
Isn’t that what all moms need during their pregnancy?
So if you are feeling a bit overwhelmed and scattered, try working with a life coach. Many professionals also offer online coaching services making it easy for you to gain access to them from the comfort of your home or smart phone.
Contact Coach Sam at the Coaching Institute for more information: http://coachinginst.com/contact/
Midwife from Mexico, Naoli Vinaver Lopez, came to Los Angeles to demonstrate to the local doulas how to use the Rebozo for labor and delivery. In case you have not heard what a Rebozo is, essentially it is a Mexican shawl about about 4-5 feet in length, which serves many functions.
Mexican women can wrap and carry their babies around their back or in a sling or pouch in front of the body. In labor, the Rebozo can help a woman with relaxation techniques and help progress labor and relieve pain. Angela from Rebozo Me Tenderly sells beautiful authentic Rebozos at a very reasonable price.
Find Angela on Facebook RebozoMeTenderly.
I keep a Rebozo in my doula bag and bring with me to every birth. The Rebozo keeps me warm in those very cold hospital rooms and can be used in a variety of ways during labor and delivery. Midwives and doulas can help correct a mal-positioned baby in order to help the baby rotate into proper anterior fetal position (tummy to mummy) and progress labor.
What I learned at Naoli’s workshop, though, was about the “movement of sexual energy.” Of course! Birth is the manifestation of sexual energy. I just have never heard it described that way, as Energy. It makes sense then that when a woman is inhibited and her sexual energy blocked, labor would be longer and often more painful.
Author Jennifer Vanderlaan of Birthing Naturally website has a great one-page description of the Rebozo and simple how-to techniques. Here is a short video clip on YouTube where Naoli and several doulas practice one Rebozo technique I like to call Sifting because it reminds me of sifting flour through cheesecloth.
Watch this demo using a Rebozo (Mexican Shawl) in order to move Sexual Energy and progress labor.
I reckon this particular movement might also help women with fertility blockages? If nothing else, it feels great!
So pull out that Pashmina or Rebozo and move it, move it!
This is the year for VBACs in my doula practice. I love supporting VBAC mamas; they have this special zing and purpose about them. I suppose hindsight is 20/20 and so these women approach birthing, the second time, being more informed and prepared.
In 2010, The American Congress of Obstetricians & Gynecologist (ACOG) issued Practice Bulletin No. 115, replacing Bulletin No. 45 which included the infamous requirement of doctors to be “immediately available” which resulted in a fire of VBAC bans to rage around the country, but primarily in rural areas. ACOG's current position is supportive of VBACs stating that VBAC is a “safe and appropriate choice for most women” with one prior cesarean and for “some women” with two prior cesareans. Being pregnant with twins, going over 40 weeks, having an unknown or low vertical scar, or suspecting a “big baby” should not prevent a woman from planning a VBAC (ACOG, 2010). That is great news across the country and I anticipate the Cesarean rate to low overall.
The risk of uterine rupture with one prior low-transverse uterine scar is low, 0.5% to 0.9% so for those considering a VBAC, read Katie's inspiring birth story and the steps she took to ensure VBAC success!
Katie’s VBAC Story – Birth of Rowan
The Previous Cesarean
From my 20-week ultrasound on, I knew that I would be having a scheduled Cesarean Section with our first baby girl, Daphne. Due to a defect in her abdominal wall that would require surgery, the doctors recommended that a Cesarean was the safest way for her to be born. I was heartbroken, fearing that it would pave the way for my subsequent births.
Daphne’s birth was an emotional experience because there were so many unknowns about her health. I felt very detached from the birthing process, since I didn’t “birth” my baby. I was not an active participant in her birth at all. We got a brief glimpse of her after she was born and she was immediately whisked off to the NICU for evaluation and prep for surgery. It wasn’t until the next day that I got to hold her while she was hooked to monitors, IV’s, and tubes, and several days later began to breastfeed. While my C-section recovery was uneventful and fairly smooth, it was still a grueling and painful process. I couldn’t function normally for a long time and it took a significant amount of time for my body to heal.
Selecting the Birth Team for the Second Pregnancy
When we found out we were expecting our second baby, I knew immediately that I wanted something different from my first experience. I’ve always known and trusted my body to be an amazing thing, created with everything needed to successfully birth a baby. Even though it was explained to me over and over again by medical professionals that a C-section was just as safe as a vaginal birth, I felt that it couldn’t be, since my body was designed to birth babies. I felt like I had missed out on a fundamental part of being a woman by not being allowed to go through the process of birthing my baby and that I missed an important step in bonding with my baby in the process.
Nearing the end of my pregnancy I searched the Internet for resources in the LA area and I kept coming across the names of several people who were active advocates for VBAC births, one of whom was a doula in the South Bay area named Patricia Grube. I had never heard of a doula before and began looking into it. As I talked things over with my husband, we decided that a doula would be instrumental in helping us achieve a successful VBAC birth by helping us navigate the complicated medical system and firm up our expectations and desires for birth. We chose Patricia as our doula after interviewing several doulas and felt she was the right fit for us. I became dedicated to attending her prenatal yoga classes at Yoga Works, which helped me prepare mentally, physically, and emotionally for the VBAC.
I also knew that finding the right doctor and hospital would instrumental for a successful VBAC. Patricia and members form my church all recommended Dr. Donna Richey. She was respectful of my wishes to move around during labor and as a result, I believe the hospital staff, knowing her style and preferences, respected those more “alternative” aspects of my birth plan.
Day One of Labor - Thursday
On the morning labor began, I was awakened around 3:00 a.m. on March 7th with cramping and discomfort. I tried to shrug it off and ignore it, thinking and hoping it was just some indigestion or maybe some stronger Braxton Hicks contractions. They kept me awake on and off until morning when I realized they were coming every 10-15 minutes or so. I called Patricia then the doctor’s office. They requested I go to the hospital for an initial reading to verify I was in labor. I went to the hospital with mildly uncomfortable contractions, which they ended up timing at 7-10 minutes apart, but with only fingertip dilation and 60% effaced. Meanwhile, my husband, Van, made arrangements to return home from his business trip and to be home by that evening.
I continued with the same cramping feeling throughout the day, with some a little more intense than others and the pressure and discomfort increasing through the evening. Since it was still quite manageable, I decided to drive to the airport to pick up Van, however, during the hour that I ended up driving around and waiting for him in the car, the discomfort intensified. We made it home and decided to head to bed and get whatever rest we could. After going to bed at about 11:30 p.m., I woke up around midnight, unable to manage the contractions lying down. I decided to let Van sleep and managed early labor on my own, finding that being on my feet was the most comfortable. I tried to sleep on the couch, sitting up a little and also leaning over the arm of a large comfy chair to preserve my energy. I spent the time blowing up my birth ball and testing it out to manage contractions. I took a warm bath and had candles lit around me to help me relax, which was wonderfully soothing. I eventually determined that the most comfortable thing for me was to lean against something while doing a figure 8 with my hips.
Day Two of Labor - Friday
As Friday morning approached, I began timing the contractions again and felt they were getting more consistent and uncomfortable. By late morning, Patricia made her way over to our house. My 2 ½ yr old daughter had woken up and was bouncing around the house, climbing on me during contractions and wanting to play with the birthing ball. With everyone awake and lots going on, my contractions spaced back out to about 7-10 minutes apart. Van cooked me some breakfast and continued to do hip squeezes through each contraction. His support was amazing throughout the labor process. He rubbed my shoulders, stroked my face and caressed my back and arms. He was constantly by me and I didn’t want him anywhere else. We slow danced through a lot of contractions with me hanging on his shoulders.
Patricia suggested we try to nap. Van and I both reclined on the couch a bit and were able to nap briefly—about 30 minutes, before contractions began waking me again. Daphne and my cousin left, and I was able to relax a little more, knowing that Daphne was taken care of and would not be a distraction. I remember trying hard to focus on the contractions being productive and bringing me closer to my baby, rather than the discomfort I was feeling. Patricia had recommended listening to my relaxing playlist that I had put together with jazz and classical. I enjoyed singing along to some of my favorite songs. I remember crying with joy as Van and I embraced and I looked at our family photos on the wall, realizing that soon there would be another sweet little girl to add to them and that what I was experiencing was bringing her closer to us. I also cried joyfully as I listened to the words of Iz’s version of “What a Wonderful World” when he sings about babies crying and watching them grow, excitedly anticipating our new little one.
Patricia suggesting that we try going up and down the stairs. My body fell into a pretty good routine of getting through one trip up and down before I would have a contraction. I was breathing heavily through each one and vocalizing to help me manage it. Patricia was wonderful, giving me suggestions of things to do to help labor progress a little more quickly and help with my comfort. When I would start to lose control during contractions, she would help me to focus and clam myself by reminding me to breathe, keep my vocalizing grounded and low instead of high pitched, and often moaning along with me. It was hard to know what I wanted and what would help me, but each of her suggestions were wonderful, from food, to music, to essential oils to ease nausea and give energy.
I remember feeling discouraged as the evening wore on and the hours went by and things weren’t progressing very quickly. I was getting exhausted but was petrified to lie down since it seemed that it brought them on more strongly. I also started to feel a great deal of pelvic and rectal pressure. I told Patricia and she had me sit on the toilet for several contractions, when finally I started to have some bloody show.
The contractions were 3 to 4 minutes apart and we decided to make our way to the hospital. We arrived at about 10:00 p.m. and I was dilated to 4 ½ centimeters, 75% effaced, and -1 station. My night nurse was wonderful, allowing me to move around freely while still being hooked up to the monitors. She also never once asked me to rate my pain or about pain medication. My contractions were continuing to get stronger and more painful, sometimes lasting several minutes and I was starting to feel extremely tired.
Day Three of Labor – Saturday, Birth Day!
In the early morning hours, as I was laboring on the birth ball with Van behind me to support me, I was falling asleep between intense contractions. I would nod off and Van would catch me and make sure I didn’t fall. I began to feel as though there would be no way I would make it to the end if it weren’t close. I told Van and Patricia that I really wanted to consider the epidural and asked the nurse to check me to see where I was. I was at 6cm with a bulging bag of waters, having progressed only 1 cm from the last exam I had had 4 hours previous. Since things were progressing so slowly, we decided to go ahead with a light dose epidural, which allowed us all to rest for several hours.
The night shift doctor came in to see me before her shift ended. She discussed breaking my water in order to progress labor. She said several things that seemed threatening about my lack of progress and needing to hurry things up or they’d need to do a C-section. She asked how big my baby was estimated at…luckily Dr. Richey had not recorded an estimate on my chart. This doctor tried to find my water bag, and was unable to locate it. I had felt several gushes throughout the evening and perhaps my waters already broke? We discussed the possibility of doing a small dose of Pitocin, but I decided to wait a little longer. My contractions had spaced again to 4-5 minutes apart. My new nurse Fereshteh (which means “angel”) came in to do a vaginal exam and I was dilated 7-8 cm and the baby was at zero station! I remember loving my epidural because I could still feel and move my legs, but was relieved of the pain. I could still feel intense pressure, however, which I preferred so that I could know how things were progressing.
By 10:45 a.m. I was beginning to feel intense rectal pressure like I needed to go to the bathroom. A vaginal exam showed that I was 8 ½ cm dilated and 100% effaced. At this time Patricia had me on my side moving my leg up and down, hoping to open things up. I focused on relaxing and visualizing my cervix opening and the baby moving down. My contractions continued to be spaced a little further out than was desirable as I was continuing to feel increasing pressure, and Patricia and I discussed the benefits of introducing a low dose of Pitocin to bring them closer together to help with the pushing phase. At 11:45 a.m. they gave me the lowest dose of Pitocin and my contractions quickly moved to every 3 minutes apart. By noon, I felt stronger rectal pressure that I had read about in other birth stories and knew that I needed and wanted to push. I was asked to blow through my contractions, which in my mind at the time was the most ridiculous thing anyone could request of me, the urge to push with them was so very strong. I was checked and I was 9 ½ cm dilated. Ferry turned off the Pitocin and by 12:15 p.m., I could no longer hold off pushing. Ferry checked me again and I was finally dilated to 10 cm and the baby was at +1 station. The new hospitalist, Dr. Mimi Hong was not available as she was delivering another baby and I was again asked to blow through several more contractions. I was angry and remember shooting a death glance towards Patricia, who whispered to me that anyone could catch the baby. Blowing through the contractions was impossible and I ended up pushing through parts of several I was asked to resist. Finally, at 12:25 p.m. Dr. Hong became available and I was told I could actively push. I did so on my side for a while and then in a semi-reclined position. During this time my epidural was turned off, although I hadn’t felt like it was doing too much in the time prior to that.
The Final Push!
As we waited for the pushing contractions to start, I remember looking up at Van and saying that maybe God would bless us to have a short pushing phase since the rest of my labor had been so very long, and silently praying that it would be so. Although I could fully feel the contractions coming on, all I wanted was for the nurses and Patricia to tell me when to push and for how long. It was wonderful to hear them cheering me on and telling me what a great job I was doing. I couldn’t care less who was in the room or what else was going on, I was very focused on just pushing and getting my baby girl here as quickly as I could. It was still very surreal to me that it was really happening. They gave me oxygen as one point during the pushing process, which helped me to breathe more deeply. After one of my pushes they all said they could see the head. I could feel it, like a bowling ball between my legs, but again, it was difficult to grasp and I remember asking if she was really there. Patricia told me to reach down and touch her head, which I did. It helped give me motivation and strength for those final pushes. Right before my final contraction that brought her out, my playlist got to one of my favorite songs from labor, Iz’s version of “What a Wonderful World/ Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. On March 9th, at 12:49 p.m., our baby girl Rowan Jane Willis was born! She weighed 8 lbs, 13 oz and was 21 inches long with a 14” head! They placed her directly on my chest where I could cuddle her and look at her. I was still in disbelief, but it was heavenly and we were elated. The doctor allowed the cord to pulsate completely before Van cut it and I was able to easily deliver the placenta without any Pitocin. The baby breastfed right away on her own and it was lovely to just be together and delaying all routine baby interventions until after the Golden Hour.
We are thrilled to have her here and especially grateful that our VBAC Birth Plan was so closely followed and respected and that things went so well considering the circumstances. My recovery has been amazing in comparison to my c-section and I really felt back to normal, minus the sleep deprivation, after about 2 weeks!
I know that we were guided in this process to the right people to help us achieve a peaceful, healthy birth for our baby. I’ve been reflecting on the whole process and am amazed by the positive feelings I have about it all, despite the pain I experienced and how long and exhausting it was. I have been thinking back fondly on how grateful I felt for everyone that helped and supported me during labor. I felt such intense love for Van as he supported me through such a long process and watched me go through such a physically intense experience. I am so grateful for the experience I had and especially for the sweet baby girl that it brought to our family!
[Originally posted April 7, 2013]