I guess this process unknowingly started before I got pregnant with my third child. My husband, Mike and I had 2 girls. Both babies were born at the hospital. I had epidurals with both and was voluntarily induced with my second. My husband was done having children I however was not. I really wouldn’t wish that predicament on any marriage. I remember one time my friend said, “Alyssa, when one person wants another child in the marriage and the other one doesn’t No wins.” I suppose that was probably the logical way to make that decision, but logic doesn’t always win around my house. I am not at all religious, but I felt like there was another person waiting for me and I was going to try my hardest to get him here.
After years of fighting, begging and pleading my weary husband agreed to have another baby. I got pregnant right away, and then lost it. I got pregnant right away again, and then lost it. I was in a dark place. I questioned everything I had previously believed about my body’s capabilities, my intuition and I wondered how much more my marriage could handle. My husband as expected said “I won’t get you pregnant again it’s too much,” and I cried…for 6 months straight. I grieved for this person that I didn’t yet know like it was my own mother.
Well, eventually, possibly because I was a hot mess, he said yes again. After 8 long grueling months of trying I found out I was pregnant. By this time I had a lot of emotions, first up was fear followed by surrender, to my body and to the larger plan. The first 3 months were the longest of my life.
My previous babies were born, medicated at the hospital and although my experiences weren’t terribly negative they weren’t mine, more a collage of hospital protocol. I was so naïve! “You just go to the hospital if you're going to have a baby, right?’ Whenever I did consider natural childbirth I doubted I had the balls to pull it off. I am known in my house for having zero pain tolerance. I’m also a bit of whiner. And although I do incorporate many natural practices in my home when I’m in pain or sick I’m popping a Motrin with a glass of wine faster than you can say colloidal silver.
I had the same OB from the last 2 losses and so far I liked him well enough. At 10 weeks I went to have an ultrasound and I saw the most beautiful little baby. I felt in my gut that this one was a keeper but I wasn’t strong in my resolve. The fear always found a way to creep in. My closest friend who is also a Doula supported me in my journey to get pregnant and was fiercely supporting me during this pregnancy, as she did the previous two. In the long endearing conversations she would help redirect my uncertainty to intuition and common sense. She had a gentle strong way of answering questions and inquiring about why I believed what I did about birth. In those times I would feel a stirring. I was interested to find out more about all this “Birth is a natural thing” philosophy. Maybe from the pain of the previous year, I felt open. I started reading everything I could get my hands on about natural childbirth, I was planning to take Bradley Method classes, and was connecting with myself in way that I never had before.
I remember the day I learned that epidurals were bad for babies, mind you my kids were 4 and 7 at the time. I remember that day I called my friend and said “Christina!! So epidurals are bad for babies? That’s why you teach in your class not to get them? She was silent, “ I wanted to try natural birth because it sounded fun but now pfff I just had no idea.” I slightly think she wanted to strangle me through the phone but calmly she said “Um…. Yea that’s kinda why I do what I do.”
Insert foot into mouth.
I read like crazy Ina May, ‘Spiritual Midwifery and “Birthing From Within” really resonated with me. I started to see my birth with my kids and husband around me. I started to imagine the pure euphoric bliss that I would experience the moment that I finally would see my sweet son’s face. It became all I could think about. More than that, I was seeing other women experience the same thing. I kept seeing myself in birth but not just as the Mommy. By 6 months pregnant when I would escape to the sweet place in my imagination where all is right with the world I would see myself going into labor and not getting in the car to go the hospital. I felt a fire lit and although dim, undeniable. What the hell is happening to me? What am I doing? I have a doctor who, granted is totally full of himself but very knowledgeable and capable of catching a baby. How come every time I would imagine looking down between my legs and seeing his face I felt an aversion? Like he was liver and onions? Looking back I knew I felt this way for a few reasons, but mostly because I didn’t trust him, even though at the time I wasn’t sure why.
I persuaded my husband to have a third baby which was a gift of selflessness I could never repay. How could I propose the idea of home birth to him? For one our insurance didn’t cover it, I didn’t know any midwives, and to top it off my childbirth record wasn’t squeaky clean. I had “mild placental abruption” on my first daughter’s chart. All of these factors where the kiss of death to any hope of having the birth I wanted. You know what, maybe I should stop being so selfish I mean I got this baby, right? As long as it’s healthy that’s all that matters. I can’t stretch my husband any farther than he already had gone it’s just asking too much! I told myself these things over and over but in the stillness of thought these were not truths to me and I knew it.
Mike and I took my friend’s Bradley Method class in the winter before my birth. I’m pretty confident this is where the change happened for Mike. First of all, it wasn’t coming from me; clearly I am not the most logical person. We learned about drugs during birth, reasons for hospital protocol during birth, the benefits to having a natural experience, among many other things. Husbands and some wives were introduced to the idea that what is good for the Mommy is also good for the baby when it comes to birth. We learned about listening to our bodies. We learned about the normal physiology of birth. We learned this is what we were designed for. We learned that with our partners support we could do it. I remember the day I said to Mike “ What if I can’t do it?” His response was “Oh yea you're doing it. There’s no choice at this point. I didn’t let you get this far to chicken out.” This made my belly flip in excitement, fear and admiration. I knew at that point he was committed.
I found my midwife, Karen Pecora through the chiropractor’s office I worked for doing massage part time. I called her told her we would like a consultation. She came the next day. I remember opening the door and seeing her I felt like I had seen a birth angel. Her energy was light and we welcomed her into our home. She stayed and answered all of our questions, assured me that even though my birth past was spotty that my second birth went perfect and it was fine for me to give birth at home. She was already devising a plan to prevent any sort of extra bleeding. (My doctor had me taking baby aspirin every day of this pregnancy.) She seemed amazing, but it was too expensive. Once again my friend nudged me along. She’d say “Alyssa when you want something bad enough you just figure it out.” As true as that was there was still fighting. There were days that my husband (I think he was really just trying to figure it out) was not nice to me. He was angry with me, he was uncomfortable, and he was about to be significantly poorer. The energy between us was palpable; there was so much tension. I became emotionally weak. I wanted to just say forget the whole thing just don’t be mad at me anymore,but I couldn’t. After what felt like forever it was time to make a decision “So… what do you think Mikey"? I remember him saying, “ You should have it the way you think it should be with this baby. It’s our last baby. I really don’t like your doctor and I know if you’re in a hospital were going to have to fight for everything we want.”
WOW! WOW! Did I hear that? I felt like he ripped my skin off looked inside of me. He got it! I was going to have my baby at home with my kids and my closest people! Gratitude filled every nook and cranny of my being and I still beam when I think about it.
That journey we took continued. Fears came, financial sacrifice came, and faith came. It was a beautiful April day when my contractions started. There was so much joy in that day. When the pain became immense I turned to my husband and he just knew how to help me. His body responded to my body in a dance that with each passing moment deepened my love and respect for him. All of the joy and euphoria I had imagined was a fraction of what it really felt like. I looked at me sweet son’s face when he came out of me, then I looked at my husband’s. I looked at my best friend, and then I looked over and saw my kids my Mom, my brothers, my sisters in law and my whole family. How did I get here? What did I do to deserve this?
I did, in fact wind up bleeding after birth. Although traumatizing to my family my midwife acted quickly and got the situation under control. That first night was painful. I felt weak. I woke the next morning with a furious flood of love hormones. Through my bedroom window the sweet scent of Jasmine wafted into the room. I looked at my baby and at my husband and said, “I feel like we could do anything. I feel like that too.” Mike said. "He’s so beautiful and perfect.” He felt really intensely ours. We made him, we grew him, and we birthed him. We did it together. What a beautiful beginning for all of us. — With Alyssa Paddie.
I don't put much stock into "due dates", so when asked when I was due, I would always answer, "End of November/beginning of December sometime ... " and leave it at that. Considering I had Ella three weeks 'early' I really didn't know what to expect this time around. My midwife kept commenting that she thought I would make it to my "due date" but not much beyond. I'm not sure I was convinced, but I prepared myself, mentally, to be pregnant through the middle of December - just in case.
The evening of November 29th rolled around and Matt and I kind of joked about the next day being my "due date". I didn't give it much thought, really, since I wasn't having any tell tale signs that labor was imminent. For several weeks leading up to that point, a few times per week, I was having legitimate contractions that always fizzled out by the time morning came. Prodromal labor, they call it. I knew my body was preparing, but it really just seemed to be doing only that. Most days, I was totally fine with this, since I was feeling anxious about bringing another baby into our little family and how it would shape things moving forward. Other days, I was just ready to meet this little being and start doing life with him/her.
At 12:15am (on November 30th, my "due date"), I woke up for what I initially thought was no reason at all. I assumed it was probably to use the restroom, considering that I did so every 2 hours or so those last few weeks, but I realized that wasn't why. I laid there for a few minutes and then felt a slight POP! and then the warm gush of fluids. I woke my husband up, "Babe!" For being in the line of work where it is expected to be woken from a dead sleep, several times per night, he sure doesn't handle it well at home. All groggy-like, he said, "Huh?" I told him my water had just broken and he just laid there. I said, "Do you think you could get me a towel?" He popped out of bed and went to the linen closet, just outside our bedroom. "What do you want me to get?" "A towel, babe" (seriously?) "Which one?" "Umm ... it really doesn't matter, I'd just like to get cleaned up." It's probably a really good thing I love him (and already know that he doesn't do the whole woken up in the middle of the night thing very well when he's at home).
With Ella, as soon as my water broke, my contractions started. So, I sent a text message to my midwife, Karen, and her student midwife, Christina: "My water just broke, fluids are clear!" Christina sent me a text back almost immediately, "Awesome! Try and get some rest." Matt and I laughed at the notion of getting rest. I mean, really? Rest after my water broke and contractions were to start at any time? Ha!
I crawled back into bed around 12:45am, wearing an adult diaper (I kept leaking and was tired of getting out of bed and changing my pajama pants), still laughing at the idea of getting some rest. Sure enough, we both ended up sleeping from about 1am until 7am, when Ella woke up. We told her that her baby was coming today and went about our normal morning routine. Around 7:30am, I felt my first contraction and I decided right then to start timing them. I know I didn't start timing them right away with Ella, but something told me to this time. I sent another text message to Karen and Christina: "Contractions have started. I'm timing them and will let you know where we're at." They are both a little over an hour away from us.
Christina called me around 8am and we chatted for a bit. I know that she wanted to talk to me through a contraction or two, to sort of triage where I was in my birthing time. When we got on the phone, my contractions were 5-6 minutes apart, lasting 45-60 seconds. We chatted for 10 minutes. By the end of our conversation, I was no longer able to talk, let alone concentrate or time my contractions. It was determined that they would leave Temecula around 9am, unless noted otherwise. After I got off the phone with Christina, I told Matt that I wanted the tub set up in our bedroom and filled with water, because I felt like I might be ready to get in it soon. I knew this because I had started my morning off in cozy slippers, pajama pants, a tank top, and a sweatshirt ... but by this point, I was in boxer shorts and a sports bra. A good rule of thumb is that the more layers of clothing that come off, the closer you are to having a baby – at least in my experience ;)
Karen called me at some point during all of this, to let me know that she was at another birth, about 2.5 hours away from San Diego. She wouldn't make it to my birth, but Christina would be there, and she was sending a back up midwife, Coley, since Christina is a student and wouldn't get credit for attending my birth without a licensed midwife there. (I would have been totally fine with just Christina – I knew she was competent and I felt very comfortable with her - but understood her need to have it documented for her licensure).
During this time, I was laboring by myself, which, I discovered, is not something I am a fan of - Matt was tending to Ella. I don't think he had any idea how quickly things were progressing until I asked told him to set up the tub because I wanted in it. Ella had snuck into our bedroom and was saying, "Mama? Mama? Mama? You okay, mama?" while I was on my knees, elbows on the bed, moaning and swaying and "ahhhhing" my baby down. I could handle that part just fine, but then she started touching me, while saying over and over, "Mama? Mama? Mama? You okay, mama?" I thought I was going to lose it. That is when I asked Matt to get the nanny to our house ASAP and to send her and Ella to the market to pick up the food on the list we had compiled earlier that morning. I had originally planned on having Ella be present for as much of the laboring/birthing process as she wanted to be present for, but soon realized that it was just not going to work for me. I couldn't concentrate the way I needed to concentrate to get through these contractions. I couldn't focus on this baby, because I was focusing on my first baby. It just wasn't working well for me. It was also at this time that I asked Matt to time a few contractions for me. 3-4 minutes apart, lasting 60-90 seconds.
I heard the nanny arrive and Matt give her the quick run down of things. While he was doing that, I called Christina. "I want in the tub. It's being filled with water, and then I'm getting in. Contractions are 3-4 minutes apart, lasting 60-90 seconds." (By this time, I was down to just my sports bra). I could hear the sense of anxiety/excitement in Christina's voice when she said, "The tub? Already? I'm on my way!" I got in the tub a few minutes later.
A bit later, my friend and labor support person, Alyssa, arrived. Our hot water had run out and the tub was only 1/4 of the way full, so Matt had all of our pots filled with water on the stove, boiling it to add to the tub. I was in transition at this point, and back to laboring alone. Alyssa noticed that I needed support and immediately grabbed my hand while I labored on my knees, arms and chest draped over the edge of the birthing tub. She was with me for several contractions until I called for Matt. I know many women who swear that they just wanted their mom/sister/girlfriend to be their labor support, but through both of my babies’ births, all I wanted was my husband. He truly has a gift and I know it isn't something that many men are gifted with.
Awhile later (I lost track of time at this point), Christina arrived. Since I choose not to do internal checks, we didn't know where I was, exactly, but it was evident by my contractions, being in the tub, and my physical state, that it was go-time. I told Christina that I was feeling pushy and she asked me to give a practice push. That practice push brought Lily's head into view. Christina told me she saw a ton of dark hair. Just then, Coley rushed in.
Without so much as saying a word, with the next contraction, my body pushed. I really didn't do much work when it came to pushing Lily out, because my body just took over. With Ella's birth, I had to do a lot of physical work to push her out, but I felt like this time, my body was just doing it all on its own. Christina announced, "Head is out!" I remember saying, "Huh?" And Christina reiterated, "The baby's head is out!" I couldn't believe it - I didn't feel the burning ring of fire that everyone talks about (I didn't feel it with Ella, either, but probably because she was so tiny) - and I was in total shock. Christina then said, "Hold off on pushing again until I tell you so that the baby has time to rotate." Craziest thing ever - I could feel Lily rotating inside of me and I knew that it was okay to let my body push again before Christina even told me. "Shoulders are out! With the next push, your baby will be here!"
11:19am, I pushed my baby out into the birthing tub, where Christina caught her and handed her up to me through my legs. I opened my eyes (I labored this time, again, with my eyes closed, as I did with Ella), looked down at my baby and said, "What?!? A GIRL?!" and remember laughing and saying "A girl?! Another girl?!" over and over again with Matt.
Ella and her nanny arrived home from the market in perfect time. It truly couldn't have been planned any better! We had just gotten Lily to cry and she and I were still in the tub, when I saw the two of them walking down the hallway toward our bedroom. I said to Ella, "Guess what? You have a baby SISTER!" and Ella's face lit up and she came running over to the tub to check things out.
Although Lily's birth was not considered to be precipitous by textbook definition (3 hours or less, start to finish), it was still very fast (3 hours, 45 minutes, start to finish), both she and I were in a physical state of shock. With fast births, sometimes Mom and Baby will experience a state of physical shock, and it takes both of them a few hours to recover from that. Because of this, two things happened that most likely would not have happened, had my birthing time been longer:
One - Lily didn't scream/cry right away and her APGAR in the first minute was a 6. We were rubbing her and talking to her and trying to get her to let out a good wail, but she wasn't having it. So, Coley grabbed an oxygen mask and placed it over Lily's mouth and nose, which helped to encourage her to start taking some big, deep breaths, which in turn, produced one very loud cry about 9 minutes post birth. In the moment, I wasn't worried that something was truly wrong, or that she wasn't going to be okay, but I was also in that labor time warp, where it only felt like she had the mask on for 2 minutes. While recounting the birth later, with Christina, she informed me that it was 9 minutes and that was the first time that I felt any anxiety about the situation.
Two - I did hemorrhage slightly, so I was given shooter of an herbal tincture that Coley made up for me. Coley and Christina weren't feeling super comfortable with the amount of blood I was continuing to lose after the tincture, so Coley gave me a shot of pitocin. Within minutes, the bleeding stopped and the placenta was delivered and all was well. I never felt dizzy or lightheaded or not well, because I didn't lose that much blood, but it was obviously enough for both of them to be a bit concerned.
Lily's birth was incredibly healing for me, after the ordeal with Ella's birth. While I have only shared how traumatic and depressing Ella's birth was with few people close to me, I never delved much further into that. It took me awhile to realize and understand that I was sad by having her birth go the way that it did. There was nothing majorly traumatizing or terrible about her birth to the outside viewer, but there certainly was for me. It's unexplainable, I think, unless you've been there yourself.
All that to say: Lily's birth was amazing, awesome, sacred, and beautiful. I couldn't have planned or envisioned a more beautiful birth. I'm pretty sure that our family is complete, but if we decided, one day down the road, that it wasn't? I would absolutely go the home birth route all over again. There is something so magical about pushing your baby out of your body, where it has been growing for the past 10 months and then climbing into your own bed, with your husband and other child(ren) and snuggling down to get acquainted with one another. S.L
“How might your life have been different if there had been a place for you? A place for you to go… A place of women, to help you learn the ways of women… a place where you were nurtured from an ancient flow sustaining you and steadying you as you sought to become yourself. A place of women to help you find and trust the ancient flow already there within yourself…waiting to be released.”